With the kickoff of the 2014 high school football season quickly approaching, our reporters have been 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:
Tim Settle‘s outlook for the 2014 football season boils down to simple math.
As a sophomore, Settle helped lead a defense that contributed to Stonewall Jackson’s first playoff appearance in eight years. The Raiders and their highly touted defensive lineman followed this effort up last season by surging to two playoff wins before falling to eventual state champ Centreville in the Virginia 6A region semifinals, marking their deepest postseason run in school history.
With the progression of the past two years serving to boost Settle’s and his teammates’ confidence, he has set his senior year sights on one lofty mark.
“Our goal is to get that ring,” Settle said with a wide smile following practice earlier this week.
Doing so would cap a year in which Settle begins as the area’s top-rated player, sitting at No. 15 overall in ESPN’s 2015 class rankings. After playing both ways last year, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound lineman will focus his attention on defense, where he often proves to be an unblockable force in the trenches with his power and improving speed off the line.
“I’m cool with double and triple teams. I hope they send the whole team at to block me, because that’ll open things up for my teammates to make plays,” Settle said. “And then if they leave me one-on-one, I’ll take advantage.”
Backing up Settle on defense is a corps of athletic linebackers in Ekoue Aziaba, Gahlia Gwangwaa, Siddiq Kanneh and Seun Ladipo. Each has explosiveness, experience and is able to make plays in open space and off of blitzes.
Strength on the defensive end bodes well for Stonewall’s new coach, Darryl Robinson, the team’s former defensive coordinator before stepping in for Mike Dougherty, who is now at the helm at W.T. Woodson.
While Dougherty’s staple was running a fast-paced spread offense, akin to what Chip Kelly started at Oregon, Robinson plans to slow things down some, using the I-formation and power plays behind running back Reggie Floyd. The junior, who is the younger brother of former All-Met basketball player Nicole Floyd, shared carries last year with Javon Purvis and dual-threat QB Greg Stroman but still rushed for more than 1,000 yards. Now with 20 more pounds of muscle and improved speed, Floyd has his sights set on breaking 2,000 yards as the feature back.
“I’ve been looking at film and working on my blocking so I can do it all,” Floyd said. “We’ve all run the [I-formation] before, so I’m used to it and our linemen should adjust fine, too.”
Floyd’s ability to carry a bigger load will also be critical in the development of junior quarterback Nick Arnold, who will replace the playmaking Stroman. Arnold got a few reps last year when Stroman went down with an injury, but his time under center was cut short by an injury of his own. After an offseason of preparation, Robinson hopes that Arnold can move the chains by connecting with his handful of big targets in Kanneh and Kalil Smith.
“Our defense is still going to fly to the ball and our offense is coming together behind our athletes as our offensive line gets smarter and stronger,” Robinson said. “I know we can make it back to the playoffs and from there, anything can happen.”