Michael Keith was a standout tailback for the 1996 Moshannon Valley High School football team that came within one victory of a berth in the PIAA Class A state championship game.
When Keith, now 33, took over the head coaching reins of his high school alma mater this year, he didn't have to look very hard or very far to realize that James Stodart would be one of his team's most prominent leaders.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Stodart will return as a starter at both tight end and defensive end for the Black Knights this fall. Stodart's height on offense enables him to create mismatches with opposing secondaries, and his speed on defense makes it difficult for opposing running backs to get to the edge of the field.
Moshannon Valley coach Michael Keith discusses the upcoming season
"We run a spread offense and we're going to split him out and get him matched up on a cornerback,'' Keith said. "With his height, that's a mismatch in our favor. Defensively, we know what he can do on the outside when he gets those long legs in stride. He's deceptively fast.''
Stodart feels that he's well-suited to the positions that he plays on the football field.
"My size definitely helps me,'' he said. "A tall person is built to play tight end and defensive end. On offense, my arms are so long that it's easier for me to catch passes and block, and on defense, it's easier to push people around.''
Stodart was a PIAA Class AA state wrestling tournament qualifier last March at 195 pounds. He hopes to participate in either football or wrestling in college, where he plans to study mechanical engineering.
"With it being my first year as coach here and the kids having yet to get to know me, he's worked really hard at stepping up in a leadership role and getting the other kids into the summer football workouts,'' Keith said of Stodart. "He's a great leader by example.''
Keith spent the past two years as Glendale's head coach after serving as an assistant coach on the Glendale staff for the previous five seasons.
"I live in the Moshannon Valley School district, very close to the high school,'' Keith said. "I wish Glendale the best of luck, but it's always nice to come back to your old school. I know what kind of [positive] attitude there is at Moshannon Valley about football.''