When the ball is snapped, North Murray High School wide receiver Michael McDade has years of training to fall back on when running the route dialed up by his coaches for that particular play.
"I was about 5," McDade said, recalling the first time he remembers playing football. "I was out in the yard with my dad. The first route I ever learned was a slant route, and I just progressed from there."
Sometimes, the sharp cuts and precise running instilled in McDade become necessary to give Mountaineer quarterback Seth Griffin a window to throw the ball.
Other times, with the strong-armed Griffin behind center, all McDade has to do is go. He'll use his speed to get behind the defense, and Griffin will find him.
Through the two games the pair has shared the field so far this season — McDade missed the Mountaineers' opener with Northwest Whitfield — Griffin has found McDade for five touchdowns. In a 52-30 win over Coahulla Creek last Friday, McDade hauled in 10 receptions for 210 yards and a school-record four receiving touchdowns.
McDade credits practice time and trust with helping the pair form the engine that keeps the potent Mountaineer offense — which has averaged 37 points per game so far — humming.
"Our chemistry has grown really strong the last two years," McDade said. "I think us staying to throw after practice is helping him kind of get his timing down right."
McDade arrived at North Murray just in time for Griffin to take over at quarterback. McDade was at Christian Heritage for his freshman and sophomore seasons before transferring to play for the other Poag brother. Christian Heritage is coached by Jay Poag, while North Murray is coached by Preston.
Griffin took over at quarterback for the multi-positional Ladd McConkey, now a wide receiver for the University of Georgia, ahead of last season, and the Griffin and McDade haven't looked back. McDade tallied 15 catches for 449 yards last year as a junior, but has broken out this season, surpassing 15 receptions already through two games.
When McDade can't get open either with speed or route-running, Griffin still sometimes finds the senior. Against Ringgold on Sept. 11, McDade got in position and leaped to make a touchdown reception over a defender, then made a similar leaping grab while draped by three Tigers to set up a short rushing score.
McDade attributes that ability to his training in another sport.
"When it comes down to it, I think of it as trying to go up and grab a rebound in basketball," McDade said. "When I see it coming, it's really about trying to box people out and go up and get it."
McDade is also a standout forward on the Mountaineer basketball team.
That game against Region 6-3A foe Ringgold was the only defeat so far for 2-1 North Murray. Ringgold hit a last-second field goal to sink North Murray 31-28, but McDade still believes the Mountaineers have big things coming for the rest of the season.
"I think we still have a chance to win region," McDade said. "That's the main goal, then keep going deep into state."