This is the third installment in a daily series leading up to the kickoff of the 2013 high school football season. Our reporters will be out at local practices checking in with contenders, dark horses and rebuilding teams alike as they gear up for the fall.
As Charlie Pierce took some time to unwind Monday evening following Briar Woods‘ first day of football practice, the Falcons coach called his son over for a glimpse at his plan. With only about five hours of total practice time under the team’s belt, Zach Pierce probably figured the sheet would be relatively simplistic, just as it had been when he was a senior linebacker on the Falcons’ 2010 team.
The younger Pierce found out that a lot can change in three years.
“I showed him the script of plays of the defenses we ran, and there were like five or six different things on there,” Charlie Pierce recalled. “For my son, those are things we probably wouldn’t have implemented until the third week of the season. But with the spring practice time we get now and the quality reps our guys put in, we’re ahead of schedule with installing things offensively and defensively.”
This past spring marked the second year that teams could practice in the offseason after the Virginia High School league passed a measure in 2011 to soften its out-of-season rules. But this year’s training is likely to pay added dividends for Briar Woods as it moves up to the larger 5A classification within the new state alignment.
The Falcons dominated their final years in Class AA, winning the last three Division 4 state titles in convincing fashion. Now, they must prove their mettle against some of the state’s biggest schools, including AAA Division 5 semifinalist North Stafford and Division 6 quarterfinalist Colonial Forge — two of the Falcons’ first four opponents this fall.
“We know there are quite a few pundits out there who think what we’ve done in the past doesn’t mean much,” Pierce said Thursday following morning practice. “If they want to think that, it is what it is. But I know what we’re about.”
During their three-year run, Briar Woods has prided itself on a high-octane offense that can score points in bunches. Back for his fourth year as a starter is senior quarterback Trace McSorley. The Vanderbilt commit is a dual-threat weapon with a big arm and elusive ability, resulting in totals of 3,257 yards and 42 touchdowns last season.
McSorley’s most reliable target, tight end Cam Serigne, is now at Wake Forest, opening the door for junior wideout Brandon Polk to further prove why colleges such as Virginia Tech and Stanford have extended offers.
“My goal is just to step up and do better than last year because I admit sometimes I wasn’t doing everything right,” said Polk, who caught 21 passes for 326 yards and six TDs last season. “Last year, I wasn’t as aggressive trying to go get the ball. I would let it fall into my hands instead of going to get it and saying it’s mine. So I’ve been working on attacking the ball at its highest point.”
To keep the field open for Polk and McSorley, the Falcons will need someone to step in at running back. Pierce said senior Chris Larco, who will also see time at linebacker, will be the team’s main downhill runner along with Hunter Ford and Anthony Martinez in replacing 1,000-yard rusher Cory Colder. Clearing the way will be physical senior offensive lineman and recent Bowling Green commit Jared Coker.
Defensively, Melvin Holland becomes the main leader with the graduation of linebacker Matt Rolin. Rolin missed eight games to injuries last season, so Falcons already have a taste of what life will be like without the Florida freshman, which should make for a relatively smooth transition. Pierce is more eager to see how the battle for the rover and nose guard positions play out.
“We’ve got to find a really good nose guard because Trei Germany was great for us the last three years and all of our defensive adjustments go through that rover spot, so you have to be intelligent, physical and versatile,” Pierce said.
Thanks to Pierce’s emphasis on success and development on the freshman and junior varsity teams, the cupboard is never bare for the Falcons as they reload for the new season. In fact, with so much athletic talent making up the 95 players who have come out during the first week of practice, Pierce noted that this year will be the hardest in making cuts.
Thursday morning’s practice saw the coaches place a number of the bubble players in one-on-one drills to test their physicality and durability. With each name that was called, teammates in the surrounding circle elevated the hype by yelling random words of motivation in the battle for one of the spots that would be doled out that afternoon.
“It’s a nice little ritual to toughen up the new kids and get everybody in the spirit,” Holland said. “We lost some talent from last year, but I think we’re smarter than we were as players, so if we play like we know how, we can be back in the state championship.”
More Camp Countdown installments:
Tuesday: Oakton Cougars
Wednesday: Lake Braddock
Thursday: Briar Woods