With the kickoff of the 2014 high school football season quickly approaching, 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. Here is the latest installment of our Camp Countdown:
As a perennial power among public schools in the nation’s capital, H.D. Woodson continuously sifts through District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association play as the hunted. This season, teams are even more pressed to knock off the reigning DCIAA and D.C. State Athletic Association AA champions that went undefeated against public school opponents.
The Warriors begin 2014 as the early favorite but will be without two-time All-Met playmaker D’Andre Payne, who is now at Tennessee working his way up the depth chart. Payne was Mr. Everything for the Warriors as he amassed more than 700 total yards and four interception returning kicks, catching passes and disrupting passing lanes.
Although Woodson will be without Payne, Warriors Coach Steve Scott has a deeper team with a large amount of underclassmen who will be called upon to make plays.
“The way I look at it, here at Woodson we are always loaded skill players wise,” Scott said. “Payne’s work ethic set him up to be the player he was, but we could possibly be more talented athletically this season.”
Their 4-2-5 defense returns six starters, including Virginia Tech commit DuWayne Johnson, senior Malik Gant and middle linebacker Jamaal Jones who holds a Marshall offer. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Robert Wertz will play on both sides of the line, and after missing last season with a severe ankle sprain 6-foot-4, 290-pound Anthony Mayes is back at tackle and defensive end. Both are seniors.
Junior Parnell Motley, sophomore Charles Peeler and freshman Noah Boykin are expected to make an impact in a secondary that is known for forcing turnovers.
“We have a couple of young guys that are coming in that are going to play a big role,” said Jones, a fourth-year starter. “They’ve been stepping up in camp. We’ll see what we have in these scrimmages.”
Woodson will face Potomac (Md.) at home in a scrimmage on Wednesday, followed by a scrimmage at McNamara on Saturday. Its 10-game winning streak will be put on the line in the season opener at Martinsburg (W.Va.) Aug. 29. Martinsburg has won three state championships in the past four seasons in its state’s largest classification.
To prepare for that tough early season matchup the Warriors participated in the NFL’s National seven-on-seven tournament in Indianapolis, where they faced tournament champion and USA Today No. 11 Booker T. Washington of Miami. They went 7-3 in the 32 team field with high schools representing NFL teams in their respective cities.
“It was great to go see yourself and your players matched up against some of the top guys in the country,” senior quarterback Rashad Cooper said. Booker T. Washington “had a lot of speed, but we matched up well. We made a couple of mistakes that caused us to lose the game, but we did really well out there.”
Cooper returns a year smarter and more mature in the Warriors’ pro-style offense. At 5 feet 9, he’s not the typical height for a quarterback, but with a strong arm and mobility, Cooper can make a ton of plays. Cooper will have his arm on display more this season with a platoon of running backs behind him. Speedy sophomore Marcel Foster will get a bulk of the carries.
Cooper’s favorite target returns in Motley, the junior led the team in receptions (21), receiving yards (451) and receiving touchdowns (five).
Senior Taylor Johnson is also a viable option at wide receiver; he is on board after being ruled academically ineligible prior to last season following his transfer from DeMatha. However, his primary positions are defensive back and at linebacker.
Scott told the team on the first day of camp, Aug. 7, they were no longer champions. The road for a repeat started that day in their quest to add to their District-leading 13 public school titles.
“You take a lot of pride in playing for this school, even the students who don’t play here take a lot of pride in us on the football team and other sports,” Virginia Tech commit Johnson said. “Having a target on our back every year pushes us every year to work harder.”
Most recent Camp Countdowns: