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:
For three hours Monday afternoon, Broad Run Coach Matt Griffis implored his group to stay focused and take each drill seriously. If he and the coaching staff didn’t like what they saw, players ran through drills again or completed up-downs.
After earning their first two playoffs wins at the Virginia Class 5A level a year ago, the Spartans desire to keep moving forward in the postseason.
In the Spartans’ previous two years in 5A, they had been 13-8 with a first-round playoff loss in 2011. But last season was a breakthrough as they went 9-4 and took eventual state finalist Briar Woods to double overtime in the regional semifinal. With 14 returning starters and dual-threat quarterback Brady Reitzel in his final season, the Spartans won’t be satisfied with another regional semifinal appearance.
“We definitely want to get one step further at least, because we have to do better than we did last year,” Reitzel said. “Like everybody else you want to win states, but only one team can do that every year in each division. We’ll definitely win the district I’ll say; I have a lot of confidence in our team in that.”
Reitzel will be without his favorite vertical target in Travis Fulgham, now at Old Dominion, but defensive back/wide reciever Chuck Davis returns after catching five touchdown passes a year ago. At 6 feet 3, Tyriek King can get vertical and grabs the football at its highest point, and Alex Galloway and Jaleel Robinson will also get chances to catch passes.
In the backfield, Jashawn Banks replaces top rusher Da’Qwan Earl (779 yards, 15 touchdowns) after averaging 7.9 yards on his 31 carries while scoring five touchdowns. Banks is a bull at the tailback position at 5 feet 11 and 210 pounds, and he loves to attack defenders when carrying the ball. Senior Willie Smallwood will provide a change of pace. And Reitzel, who ran for 268 yards and six touchdowns last season, is a threat when he keeps the ball.
The offensive line has the most question marks with the loss of three starters, but it brings back anchors in 6-foot-2, 250-pound center Shane Faett and tackle Will Yancey. Griffis lost his offensive line coach, and he has taken over the role.
“They have to have confidence in themselves. The offensive linemen just have to believe that they know what they’re doing,” Griffis said. “Sometimes they second guess, so we’re trying to keep things real simple. All they have to do in our scheme is maintain their man, get a stalemate at the line of scrimmage and we’ll be okay.”
Jerry Gordon is in charge of the defense after previous coaching jobs at Woodgrove and Potomac Falls. He also serves as a recruiting specialist for Boston College.
The hard-hitting Davis will be a leader in the secondary this season, and he holds offers from Wisconsin, Indiana and North Carolina while Oregon and Texas are showing strong interest in the versatile defensive back. Davis and 6-foot-2 junior cornerback Chris Moore will be difficult to pass against.
“All of us are working hard and putting in that extra two or three reps because we lost in double-overtime last year,” Davis said. “We’re always doing something extra to go above and beyond.”
Linebackers Smallwood and Banks will also be key players on the defense, along with senior Jack Hawkins, a 6-foot-3, 282-pounder who can play anywhere on the defensive line.
With just more than a week until their season opener against Booker T. Washington (Norfolk) the Spartans are still participating in two-a-days to prepare for a deep postseason run. They are blessed with veterans all over the field in their trek for their first state final berth since winning back-to-back AA Division 4 crowns in 2008 and 2009.
“Getting to the state final is a big goal for all 70 people on the team,” Davis said. “we’re thinking states in everything that we do.”
More Camp Countdowns: