Gage Michael had to wait for his time in the spotlight with the Fairmont Senior football team, but when that time came Michael made the most of the opportunity.
Michael, a senior quarterback for the Polar Bears, was a bit overshadowed in recent seasons by teammates — current West Virginia University starters Zach Frazier, Darius Stills and Dante Stills each came before him from Fairmont Senior and Michael sat behind a Kennedy Award winner in Connor Neal before being named the full-time starter as a junior — but the senior saved his best for last and helped bring another Class AA state championship trophy back to 12th Street.
It was Fairmont Senior’s second state title in the last few years, and in addition to those championships, Michael can add another line to his prep football resume: 2020 WVSN Class AA Football Player of the Year.
“The past three years, I haven’t really been ‘the guy’,” Michael told WVSN. “As a senior, I had to step up and produce and take charge when it needs to happen.”
The Polar Bears got off to a bit of a rocky start to the 2020 season on the field, with early losses to eventual Class AAA semifinalist Musselman and Blake Hartman — the WVSN Class AAA Football Player of the Year — as well as a defeat at the hands of rival Bridgeport (which would go on to be the Class AAA state runner-up thanks to COVID forfeits in the playoffs).
Fairmont Senior sat at 1-2 after three games played, but the Polar Bears would not lose again in 2020 — thanks in large part to Michael, who led his team to eight consecutive wins following the back-to-back losses in late September. The last of those wins was in the Class AA state semifinals on the road at powerhouse Bluefield, and when the semifinal on the other side of the between Oak Glen and Robert C. Byrd was canceled by the COVID map, it meant a second state championship in the last three seasons for Fairmont Senior and a bit of validation for the Bears’ standout senior quarterback.
Michael said having players before him pave the way to the highest levels of college competition was a motivating factor for him throughout his high school career.
“Those guys are doing tremendous things at the next level,” Michael said. “I just try to follow the tradition of Fairmont Senior High School, and that’s sending people off the play Division I ball. I worked every day knowing those guys were ahead of me and I wanted to be like them so I could accomplish my goals and get to the next level. Having them here before me, even though they might have overshadowed me or whatever, it was a blessing in disguise and made me work even harder.”
The Polar Bear senior ended his high school career as the only player in Fairmont Senior’s long football history to account for more than 8,000 all-purpose yards. This season, Michael was a threat through the air and on the ground as he averaged 310 total yards per game. In a first-round playoff game, Michael accounted for seven touchdowns in a Fairmont Senior win against visiting Braxton County.
Michael committed to Kent State in June and told WVSN he fell in love with the school and the coaching staff — now he’s looking forward to some “MACtion” with the Golden Flashes.
“It’s very exciting,” Michael said. “I see it all the time on Twitter — on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday everybody is tweeting about ‘MACtion’ so it’s going to be exciting.”