Martin making memories in Wetumpka’s undefeated season
By Tim Gayle
WETUMPKA – The comparisons are obvious. The similarities are eerie.
As Jadarious Martin continues to lead unbeaten Wetumpka down a path toward the 6A state playoffs, he can’t help but hear the comparisons to Jamal Golden, the last great quarterback for the Indians.
Martin and the Indians are 6-0, off to their best start since Golden engineered the 2010 team to a 7-0 start and the trip to the 6A quarterfinals. Martin is an incredible athlete who can do so much with his feet, but is working on his passing game to develop into the same type of quarterback Golden had to develop into as a senior in 2010. Both are 6-foot and roughly the same weight (Martin is 185 pounds, while Golden is 180).
“I’m doing some of the same things he was doing,” Martin said. “The way they see me, they always think of Jamal. He was one of the best quarterbacks that ever played at Wetumpka.”
“(Coming into the 2017 season), I worked on my reading defenses and on my passing,” Martin said. “That was one of my biggest (obstacles) is I had to work on my passing and I got better at it throughout the offseason. You’ve got to read all the reads. You’re going to have to read to get passes off and get the ball down the field.”
That wasn’t a problem two years ago when he played for the junior varsity Indians. At that level, pass plays are simple calls. Snap the ball to Jadarious and let him do the rest.
“He was our ninth-grade quarterback but he was such a gifted runner, the ninth-grade coaches did a great job of playing to his strengths so they didn’t do a lot of straight drop back concepts with him,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said, “so he did not have to learn to read coverages. And last year he just had a learning curve to close.”
In 2016, the Indians started Deandre Ezell, the 6-foot-6 junior who could read the defense and survey the field. There was a place for Martin, though, because his athletic ability as a runner was obvious. This August, the decision was made to move Ezell to receiver because Martin had developed his passing game to the point where he could be an every-down signal caller. Still, Ezell’s ability to lead the Indians couldn’t be ignored.
“We’re able to kind of interchange those guys at times,” Perry said. “They’re two different kinds of quarterbacks. Deandre is the prototype drop back pocket guy. He reads coverages extremely well. But the thing Jadarious gives us is he’s so explosive with the ball. If we’re throwing it and it breaks down, he can pull the ball down and score.
“That’s not a knock on Deandre at all. He just doesn’t have that kind of ability to make guys miss like that.”
Against Prattville, Martin had an 80-yard touchdown run and a 75-yard touchdown run in a 47-29 victory; against Eufaula, he rushed for 206 yards on 16 carries and passed for 104 more; against Chelsea, he rushed for 69 yards and four touchdowns and passed for 112 yards and another score.
Martin was injured in the second quarter of a 40-13 win over Stanhope Elmore, so he wasn’t able to pile up as many gaudy statistics, and he played sparingly in a 56-19 rout of Chilton County after rushing for three quick touchdowns, but he’s already over 1,000 yards rushing and 400 yards passing at the midway point of the season despite splitting time with Ezell at the position.
“It’s good for the offense,” Martin said. “It really doesn’t matter who’s on the field as long as we get the job done.”
And consider this: While Golden had a good complement of offensive talent lined up around him and behind him in the backfield, Martin isn’t even considered the biggest offensive playmaker on the team. Kavosiey Smoke, who rushed for approximately 800 yards last season, is the team’s top recruit entering the 2017 season.
That gives opposing coaches a double dose to contend with as they try to corral the Indians’ offense.
“I would describe it as powerhouse,” Martin said. “We’ve just got an unbelievable running back and an unbelievable O-line.”
“When Deandre’s at quarterback, we’re going to play to his strengths,” Perry said. “We’re going to throw the ball a little more and Deandre’s really good at RPOs (run-pass option plays). We try to get JD out on the edge, give him a lot of sprint-outs, try to get him out in space as much as we can.”
When Jadarious is in the game, Perry admitted, “it’s like having two running backs in the backfield.”
After watching his team chase Martin all over the field in a 51-14 loss last week, Greenville coach Josh McLendon told the Greenville Advocate: “As for him, I don’t know if we could tackle him in a phone booth. He was dynamic and we knew that” going into the game.
Martin easily went over the 100-yard mark again, running 21 yards for a touchdown and 87 for another.
And while the Indians’ toughest stretch lies ahead with region games against Pelham, Helena, Opelika and Benjamin Russell, Martin doesn’t seem the least bit fazed by his team’s 6-0 start, the best since – you guessed it – the Indians won their first seven games in Golden’s senior year.
“It’s no surprise,” Martin said. “We’re a hard-working team. We already knew through the offseason that we were a better team than some of the others around here, so we already had it in our head that we could get the job done.”
Martin remains the perfectionist, eager to help the Indians correct their mistakes, so it should come as no surprise the junior thinks the second-ranked scoring offense in Class 6A needs to score more.
“In my opinion, we’ve got to get better at scoring the ball,” he said, “pushing our defense to work even harder and moving the ball up and down the field the way it’s supposed to be, with no mistakes, no penalties, nothing like that.”