Mike McGraw began the season blocking for Jay Molnar. And at year’s end, he was still blocking for Jay Molnar, but not quite the same fashion that he had been in August and mid-September.
Molnar, a senior, was the Bears’ quarterback for the first five games. McGraw’s job as fullback was to protect him. Behind center, Molnar led the Bears to their first win in program history — and pretty decisively so — over Winters Mill on Aug. 31 and took them to within three against an eventual 9-1 North Hagerstown team. But in a week five game with undefeated and No. 1 seeded Middletown, Molnar punctured a lung.
At the time, there was no way of knowing how seriously he had injured himself, so he played through. And even with a hole in his lung, he helped Oakdale put up 19 points on the scoreboard, a number only Frederick and Urbana, teams combining for a 14-6 record, would reach against the Knights for the rest of the season.
But Molnar would have to sit out during a pair of losses to Frederick and Urbana, and when he returned, he found that coach Kurt Stein had a new assignment for him.
“That was pretty tough,” Molnar said of sitting out. “But I came back against Walkersville and I came back as a running back. That was just what was best for the team at the time.”
Stein said that the move had nothing to do with Molnar’s play in the first five games. Crosby Winters had moved under center and Stein was well aware that Molnar, a former youth running back, was athletic enough to play pretty much any position on the field.
“As long as he’s been here, no matter if he’s playing quarterback, running back, wide receiver, he’s always been able to run with the ball in his hands,” Stein said. “So yeah, we knew any position where he’s going to get the ball in his hands he’s going to do OK.”
Winters was doing a fine job in replacement, leading the Bears to their highest point total of the season (26) against Frederick in his first game under center. With Oakdale’s backfield plagued with injuries, Stein experimented with Molnar at running back.
“It was just one of those things where he had been out a long time and Crosby had come in and done some good things and we were a little beat up at the running back position,” Stein said. “We had two other running backs who suffered season-ending injuries so Jay stepped in there to fill a need for us since we were short there.”
To know how well Molnar adjusted to the move, which was really just a return to the position he had played his whole life, a quick skim of Oakdale’s opening few possessions against Tuscarora would be all you need. Molnar’s first two carries went for 31 yards and a touchdown and his next six all went for eight yards or more. He would go on to finish with 115 yards on 20 carries in Oakdale’s 41-21 win over the Titans, the first county win in school history and the first time the Bears eclipsed 40 points.
“It was just what was best for the team at the time,” Molnar said of the move, adding, “well, it worked out.”
It was a bittersweet moment for Molnar and the other Oakdale seniors. They suffered 18 losses — many of which came by devastating proportions — and finished with just two wins. But they were also a part of what no other Oakdale player with ever be able to say, and that’s a first game, a first first-down, a first win.
All that may seem trivial in a few years, when the program will have found its footing and built a little traction, but it’s something Molnar and his 14 fellow seniors will likely not forget for some time.
“The bottom line is that everything we do in the future is because of the 15 seniors that played out there tonight,” Stein said after the Tuscarora game. “They sacrificed a tremendous amount to go through what we had to get through, but all of the success that we will have later on will be because of what they did and I’m happy to at least send them out on the correct note.”