HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Coming into the 2016 season, everyone was well-aware of the athleticism of Mingo Central quarterback Jeremy Dillon.
Already a verbal commit to Marshall for basketball, Dillon had also established himself as a standout in football with a pair of first-team selections on the defensive side during his two years at Tug Valley.
No one at the high school level had ever seen him at quarterback, however.
That all changed during the 2016 season when Dillon took West Virginia football by storm, leading the Miners to a 32-7 win over Fairmont Senior in the Class AA Championship while putting up one of the most statistically-dominant seasons in recent memory with more than 4,000 yards of total offense and 61 touchdowns.
Those numbers earned him the 2016 House Award, given to the state’s top quarterback, as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“It’s been amazing,” Dillon said of his ascent as a quarterback. “I can’t give enough credit to my offensive coordinator Joey (Fields). He’s really taught me how to play quarterback. These short three months flew by, so I want to thank him. He’s taught me a lot in these three months. I just listen to what he says and do it every day in practice, over and over.”
The 2016 was Dillon’s first as a quarterback since leading his middle school team to a county championship during his seventh grade season when he led a run-oriented attack.
Ironically, Dillon won a title as a quarterback that year as well, leading his team — comprised of current Mingo Central teammates — to a county championship.
Following that year, however, Dillon’s family moved into the Tug Valley school district where he stayed until this summer. While at Tug Valley, most of his headlines came on the basketball court instead of the football field.
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound talent had not taken a snap as a quarterback until coming back to Mingo Central where Fields instantly put him at the helm of the Miners’ multi-faceted offense.
It proved to be a genius coaching decision for the Miners’ offensive coordinator.
Considering that it was Dillon’s first year at quarterback, his numbers through the air were staggering.
Dillon finished the 2016 season with a 63 percent completion rate (189-of-299), throwing for 2,858 yards and 37 touchdowns with just three interceptions on the season.
Add that to another 1,199 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground, and Dillon became the state’s most unstoppable player.
The junior standout showed that on a pair of plays during the championship win over Fairmont Senior.
A bad snap early in the contest left Dillon scrambling back near midfield to retrieve the football well behind the line of scrimmage.
With the Fairmont defense bearing down on him, Dillon juked left, sprinted right and unleashed a wicked stiff-arm to a would-be tackler before using his speed to race for a first down that kept a drive alive.
Later in the game, Dillon got pressure from his left side, but calmly slid out of the pocket to his right and fired a perfect spiral on the run to diving receiver Drew Hatfield for a big gain that set up a touchdown.
Mingo Central coach Yogi Kinder, who rode off into retirement with a title, said Dillon’s toughness — both mental and physical — are what separated him from everyone else.
“It’s a blessing because, man, I’m going to tell you, he’s a good football player…,” Mingo Central coach Yogi Kinder said. “He’s an athlete and a tough one. It’s hard to get those quarterbacks like that.”
The House Award is named for former Nitro quarterback J.R. House, who broke national passing records, throwing for 14,457 yards during his time with the Wildcats from 1995-98.
House was also a multi-sport standout who made it to the Major Leagues in baseball as a catcher.
Given Dillon’s ascent as one of West Virginia’s top multi-sport standouts, it is almost fitting that the junior from Mingo Central wins an award with House’s name attached to it.
Dillon will receive the 2016 House Award at the 71st annual Victory Awards Dinner at 4 p.m. on May 21 at Village Square Conference Center in Clarksburg, W.Va.
Grant Traylor is a sports writer for the Huntington Herald-Dispatch and a member of the WVSWA.