Staunton Storm football and Michael – The News Leader

  • September 14, 2022

STAUNTON — At first glance Tuesday afternoon, it was difficult to find Staunton’s coach Michael Bell at practice. Then you realize that’s him, with a helmet and jersey on under center, right in there mixing it up with his players. Bell can still show his players a thing or two on the field even more than 20 years since his high school playing days came to an end.
It’s not the first time this season the coach has done that either, said sophomore Marc Geffrard.
“Yeah, he’s done that, he likes being engaged with us,” Geffrard said. “And he’s a great coach. I’m glad I can be under him right now.”
Bell, in his first year as head varsity football coach, doesn’t put the helmet on at every practice. He picks his moments, when he thinks the players need a change or a spark. He has fun with it.
“Sometimes I put my helmet on and jump in and play with them,” the coach said. “Sometimes I just put it on just to get their energy up a little bit because they’re like, ‘Oh, coach got the helmet. I’m getting him today.’ So that’s just something that changes a little bit.”
After playing football in high school and college, Bell has been part of the football coaching staff in Staunton for 15 years. He’s also the head wrestling coach for the Storm. In May though, his dream of being varsity head football coach at the school where he played came true.
Things couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start, either. Staunton is now 2-0, beating Covington 40-7 and Page County 35-2. Bell has enjoyed every minute of it.
Staunton played its first game Sept. 2 on the road, and Bell said he was relaxed all week leading up to the game. Then, after the team meal that Friday the players and coaches got on the bus to head to Covington. That’s when it hit him.
“I was like, this is really happening,” he said. “I’m really about to coach my first game.”
One of the big things that helped him that week was his coaching staff, who kept him grounded and have been very supportive. They work well together as a staff, Bell said. So when he got a little nervous before that first game he relied on the other coaches to keep him calm. Then, standing on the sideline that night, he looked at his players and knew it was time.
“I saw the look on a kids’ faces, I saw the focus,” he said. “My coaches were ready. Everything’s ready and then just before kickoff it sort of just settled in, like this is happening, let’s go.”
Walker Darby is Staunton’s senior quarterback. He loves the atmosphere under Bell this season.
“He’s really brought in a new attitude to the team, where we’re all up in practice and … we’re a giant family this year,” Darby said. “And even when something goes wrong, we’re not gonna be negative towards one another and we’re gonna stick together and fight through.”
This is actually the third year that Darby has had Bell as a head coach, also playing two years for him on the junior varsity team. So when Bell was announced as the varsity coach, the senior knew what to expect.
“He’s awesome,” Darby said. “He’s fun. I mean, today he put on a helmet and did hitting drills with us. That’s just something we haven’t had before and it’s fun, it’s exciting.”
An all-state defensive tackle in high school, Bell has to be thrilled that his current team is playing tenacious defense so far. There was only one game last season where the Staunton defense held its opponent to seven or fewer points. The Storm has already done it twice this year.
This is Geffard’s first year on varsity. In the win over Page County, the sophomore defensive back had three interceptions, giving him four on the season. He said getting a pick really seems to get his teammates hyped up, one of the reasons he finds playing defense more exciting than offense.
Last year on junior varsity he didn’t really get the chance to make interceptions, saying that not many teams at that level throw the ball. Varsity is a different experience.
“I have to actually be able to read the quarterback, read the receivers,” he said. “To be able to go out there and play like that, it’s just It’s crazy. I love it.”
Bell said Geffard has a knack for making plays, and he’s willing to learn from his coaches. That ability to be coached has really impressed Bell.
As quarterback, Darby said having a strong defense takes some weight off of his shoulders.
“I feel like in years past, it’s been stressful at some times,” he said. “But this year, I have faith that if we don’t score on every drive, that they’re going to be able to help carry the load.”
Staunton is at home Friday against Rockbridge. Game time is 7 p.m. at Wine Memorial Stadium at Gypsy Hill Park.
Patrick Hite is The News Leader’s education reporter. Story ideas and tips always welcome. Contact Patrick (he/him/his) at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Patrick_Hite. Subscribe to us at


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