By Tommy Keeler Jr. -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The new season is here, and with it comes a number of questions. With several stars heading to college football and district realignments wreaking havoc in the Shenandoah Valley, the changes have clouded expectations.
Here are a few of the biggest questions that will be answered as the season progresses.
Who will replace Ross Metheny at Sherando?
Metheny, a four-year starter at Sherando, threw for 1,317 yards last season despite missing several games with an injury. He is now at the University of Virginia, leaving coach Bill Hall with a tough decision to make this season.
Hall has three options at signal caller that have been battling it out all preseason. Senior Corey Rice received some playing time last year, throwing for 304 yards on 22-of-33 passing. Sophomores Jalen Brisco and Lucas Tunison also are in the running for the position.
Brisco also saw some playing time last year and threw for 29 yards on his only two pass attempts. Brisco gives the Warriors a dual-threat, as he ran for 62 yards on 11 carries last year.
As usual Hall is keeping his cards close to the vest. It's possible all three could see playing time, but no matter who plays there's no question they have some big shoes to fill.
Is Trae Tinsman the next in a long line of top area quarterbacks?
This area has had more than its share of successful quarterbacks who have went on to play at the next level. From Handley's Lang Campbell and L.A. Anderson to Strasburg's Joe Bauserman and then, most recently, Metheny, quarterback has always been a strong position for the area. James Wood's Tinsman is primed to carry the torch.
Last year as a junior he threw for 1,183 yards on 66-for-152 passing. He threw 13 touchdowns to lead the Colonels back to the playoffs for the second straight year.
Tinsman isn't being looked at by many FCS schools and said right now he prefers UMass and Villanova.
The 6-foot-4 Tinsman has a very strong arm, but said he's worked on making his short game even better as well. He has also improved his footwork. The more Tinsman improves the more worried coaches in the area will be.
"He's scary," Handley coach Tony Rayburn said of Tinsman. "He has a big-time arm. He knows how to make the right throw. He's a really good athlete. I think he's the top returning quarterback from all the teams that I've seen."
How will Warren County fare in the Evergreen District?
The Wildcats make the move to a new district this year, but that certainly doesn't mean the road to a winning season will be any easier.
Liberty and Fauquier are moving down from Group AAA, where the Eagles advanced all the way to the Division 5 state semifinals last year. Kettle Run is in its second year of existence and will certainly be improved over last year, while Brentsville always fields a tough team.
Warren County coach Tony Tallent said he is excited for the opportunity to play in a new district.
"Except for the Fauquier coach, I've dealt with all the other coaches before and have a great relationship with all of them," Tallent said. "I think being in the district is a real positive for us."
Will the move to Group A help Central get back to the postseason?
The Falcons are moving back down to Group A this season and into the Shenandoah District. The last time the Falcons were in single-A they advanced to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons -- the only two times the Falcons have been in the playoffs.
Central has an experienced group, which will help in its playoff pursuit. Leading the way is junior quarterback Matt Sherfey, who threw for 1,210 yards on 77-for-154 passing and eight touchdowns last season.
The Shenandoah District, however, will not be a walk in the park for the Falcons. Buffalo Gap and Riverheads have each won state titles in the last three years and county rival Stonewall Jackson has always been a formidable foe.
Can anybody stop Handley's powerful offense?
The Judges return much of their offense from last year's team, which averaged 26.9 points per game. Senior running backs Jeremiah Wilson (1,400 yards) and Leonard Grant (540 yards) will lead the way, while senior Geremi Long returns at quarterback (192 yards passing).
On top of that, the Judges return most of their big offensive line, which paves the way for Wilson and Grant to run. Handley lost several top receivers, but senior David Carter is back after missing last season with an injury. Senior Kenny Griffin, who transferred to Handley after football season last year, will give the Judges additional speed at wideout. The Judges will also be playing their home games on a brand new synthetic turf field this season, which will enhance the team's speed even more.
Handley has the experience (regional semifinalists in 2008) and offensive weapons (the aforementioned trio of Wilson, Grant and Long) to contend for a district title.
Rayburn is staying cautiously optimistic about his team.
"It's a new year," he said. "Last year's team played with a chip on their shoulder. We'll have to see if this year's team plays with one."