For Woodgrove Coach Mike Skinner, last Thursday was just another day — he’s seen plenty of high-profile college figures in his three decades as a football coach. But for a school in just its third year of existence, having Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer walk the hallways of Woodgrove is no small thing.
“You would have thought President Obama came,” Skinner recalled with a laugh. “Some teachers brought in helmets for him to sign. Kids were purposely walking down to where he was. That was the first time a college head coach had come to the school, so it was a pretty big deal. And that’s the fun part of it all, because it’s new for them.”
If Woodgrove’s short football history is any indication, Beamer’s visit will be the first of many from big-time college coaches.
Wednesday saw four Wolverine football players finalize their commitments to play at the next level, highlighted by defensive back Atem Ntantang signing with Boston College. Robert Warfel and Dylan O’Connor joined the Hokies and Maryland, respectively, as preferred walk-ons and Dan Charmo will compete at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Churning out such gridiron talent is unique for a program with just three years under its belt, but like Briar Woods, Stone Bridge and several other Loudoun County schools, Woodgrove has quickly made its mark on the high school and recruiting radars.
“Every place I’ve been, there have been winning traditions, but when I came to Woodgrove, everything was still new so it’s hard to create an excitement around the team early on,” said Skinner, who came to Woodgrove last year after coaching at Stone Bridge, Marshall and Centreville, where he won a state title in 2000. “But when you see a Beamer or somebody else like that around the school, kids get excited because they see things changing and think maybe they can be the next guy who gets recruited.”
Ntantang leads this new wave of excitement. Along with being the first player to score a touchdown in school history, the senior became the first Wolverine to commit to a Football Bowl Subdivision program when he pledged to BC last summer.
“Signing Day was awesome because you grow up idolizing players who sign with big schools and then all of a sudden, I’m at the table about to do the same thing. It’s like, wow,” the second team All-Met defender said. “Having the success we’ve had as a program in just three years is somewhat surprising, but it’s a great feeling, too, and makes you excited for the future classes.”
This past season, Skinner’s first at the helm, the Wolverines continued their progression with a 7-4 mark, besting their combined win total (six) during their first two years. Similar ascents have occurred at Briar Woods, which boasted Division I signees Matt Rolin (Florida) and Cam Serigne (Wake Forest) this year, and Stone Bridge, led by Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year Jonathan Allen (Alabama) and Stanford recruit Ryan Burns.
For Woodgrove, the future remains bright behind junior running back Joshua Sweet, who rushed for 1,727 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. With more numbers like that, Beamer might find reason to make a return trip to Woodgrove, and if so, Ntantang has some simple advice.
“When it comes down to it, it’s listening to Coach Skinner because he’s been at the top and that’s where this team wants to be,” Ntantang said. “He always reminded me to stay level-headed and don’t forget the work it took to get us here.”
One last National Signing Day note: As promised, I checked with Avalon senior and Maryland recruit Jacquille Veii about what he did with his leftover Nebraska and Iowa hats. Naturally, the classy Veii said he was giving the caps to two of his friends. The Nebraska hat goes to Quince Orchard’s Marcus Newby, who will play for the Cornhuskers next fall, and the Iowa cap was given to Avalon teammate Tommy Vince, who will play at Catholic.
In Thursday’s basketball action:
• No. 2 Theodore Roosevelt ran its record to 20-0 with a 76-69 winagainst No. 13 Riverdale Baptist. Read Eric Detweiler’s story for more.
• Mariah Leonard capped a 23-point, 18-rebound showing by hitting the game-winning shot in Broad Run’s 50-49 victory against Osbourn. With the win, Broad Run will head to its first Northwest Region tournament.
Number of meet records set by Good Counsel swimmer Jack Conger in six previous appearances at the Washington Metro Interscholastic Swimming & Diving Championships. The senior will take aim at two more Saturday in his final high school event.
— ●Battlefield’s gymnastics team placed second at the Northwest Region championship Thursday to earn a trip back to the state meet.
Paul VI girls’ basketball team fell to No. 3 St. John’s in overtime earlier this week for its first loss of the season. Good Counsel has won nine straight games with its last loss coming against, you guessed it, Paul VI in a close battle.