Grant Jones (5-10, 165) took over the Raiders' starting quarterback position late last season and is one of seven starters who return for Loudoun County. Jones, a senior, has a host of runners ready to work behind him, including tailbacks Dan Scanlan (6-1, 195), Scott Spurrier (5-8, 170), Danny Slack (6-0, 195) and Gil Veney (5-9, 165).
Last season the Raiders notched 1,658 yards rushing, but no individual rushed for more than 300 yards.
"We've got a great mix at tailback," said Coach Pat McManus, whose team was 3-7 overall and 2-5 in the Dulles District a year ago. "Two of our backs are big and powerful and two are little and fast, so we hope to be able to use them in combination."
Spurrier, who will also return kicks for the Raiders, worked at wide receiver a year ago. But the return of senior wide receiver Brad Bridges (5-10, 175) and the addition of senior Cam Harris (5-8, 160), who finished sixth this past spring at the Virginia AA meet in the 100-meter dash, have allowed Spurrier to move to the backfield.
"We throw a lot to our running backs, so Scotty will still get the ball thrown to him," McManus said. "But this allows us to get the ball in his hands a few more times."
The Raiders lack size at nearly every position but do have the benefit of experience -- and speed. Loudoun County returns seven starters, led by senior defensive ends Justin Shockley (6-0, 225) and Nick Thompson (6-1, 205).
Also back are a slew of players at linebacker, including Scanlan, Slack and junior identical twins Billy and Michael Sweeney. They will try to improve a unit that yielded an average of 25.5 points per game in 2003.
It's likely to be an uphill battle for the Raiders again this season as they square off against bigger opponents at almost every outing. McManus is less concerned about his team's size and more impressed with its attitude.
"We don't have great size, but we've got experience and a lot of confidence," McManus said. "There are 20 seniors on this team and they really feel good about themselves. Physically we're going to have to rely on our speed. We can run at just about every position. But the mental part of the game, that will be our strength."
-- ANGELA WATTS