Camp Countdown: Sherwood Warriors

August 16, 2013

After finishing 9-3 last season, Sherwood will be under the direction of first-year coach and alum Chris Grier in 2013. (Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

There is no great experiment taking place for Sherwood under first-year coach Chris Grier, who confessed a penchant for teaching simple football after Thursday evening’s practice in Olney. Since being hired to take over his alma mater in February following the sudden resignation of Mike Bonavia, Grier has been careful not to get caught up in implementing a complex system. But while he runs fewer that 10 plays (relying instead on a variation of looks) he is teaching his new players to win in the weight room, and quite simply, at the line of scrimmage.

After drilling the Warriors for more than three hours Thursday — a session in which he interrupted every few moments to teach technique in the trenches and running game – he ordered his team to stand on the goal line for conditioning. One of his players was wearing six wristbands, which led the old-school Grier to punish his team with six 100-yard sprints.

“We told guys, if you’re not allowed to wear it in the game, you’re not allowed to wear it in practice. We had a guy wearing six wristbands. So, six 100-yard gassers. And I don’t think they’ll be wearing wristbands again,” said the 30-year-old Grier, a former assistant at DeMatha who grew up in Olney and starred on the offensive line for Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy at Sherwood. “The relationship there, like I was telling them there at the end, does it really matter that you have six wristbands on? Not really. But does it matter where your feet are lined up on the line of scrimmage? Yeah. It matters a lot.”

Sherwood, which finished 9-3 last season and beat Catonsville in the Maryland 4A North semifinals before falling to Westminster in the region final, still has plenty to learn from its young head coach, according to offensive lineman Dean Emerson. Knowing that Grier played at Sherwood and in college, at both Waynesburg and West Virginia University, communicates to the players his experience and knack for detailed fundamentals, he said.

“It’s nice because he really focuses in on the details. You know, checking what we’re stepping with on which play. He’ll nit-pick at you, but it’s good,” Emerson said. “It’s all about the little things, and like the little things make up the big things.”

Sherwood will have to compensate for key losses to graduation, including starting quarterback Jordan Larsen and running back Moses Vines, as well as safety Rich DiPietro and standout kicker Jake Ryder. But it has talented big bodies back in Emerson at center and two-way lineman Matt Roberts, as well as tight end Marques Thomas. Grier also is also high on senior linebacker Paris Atwater, the son of former Denver Broncos star safety Steve Atwater.

But the most dynamic returner could end up being Elijah Spottswood, who was a productive change-of-pace back for Vines last season, and scored five touchdowns on the ground. He was also a key defensive back, and one of the county’s best return men, taking back four kicks for touchdowns.

He’s expected to start in all three phases again this fall, something that was in doubt when he tore his right ACL during a football camp at Gallaudet on April 6. He had surgery and recovered from the tear in just under four months he said, and is fully prepared to be the team’s feature back, shutdown corner and kick returner. On Thursday, he was sporting a brand new metallic-visor that matched the color of his helmet. He has a prescription to wear it for the season, he said, noting that it would normally be an illegal piece of equipment under the county’s – and Grier’s – rules.

“I love the run scheme. It’s a lot of zone, and it kind of puts the power in my hands to pick the hole,” Spottswood said. “Something feels special. I don’t know if its the coaching staff, or the heart that is starting to emerge.”

Previous Camp Countdown installments:
Quince Orchard | Northwest | Gaithersburg
Oakton | Lake Braddock | Briar Woods
Anacostia | H.D. Woodson | Dunbar
Good Counsel | DeMatha

Roman Stubbs covers the University of Maryland athletics for The Washington Post.
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