By Tommy Keeler Jr. -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Central players walked onto the practice field Monday morning with a new level of enthusiasm.
The Falcons have struggled over the past few years, but that hasn't kept the players from staying positive about the season ahead.
"Everybody was just excited to get back out here," Central junior running back Seth Bauserman said. "We didn't exactly have that attitude last year. This year everybody is really eager to get started."
The Falcons were one of eight area teams to start football practice on Monday, the first day teams in the Virginia High School League were allowed to begin. Handley will open practice on its brand new turf field Wednesday and James Wood starts Thursday.
Central has plenty of reasons for renewed optimism this season -- one of the biggest being a move in classification from Group AA to Group A. The Falcons have been one of the smallest schools in Group AA for the last four years, but now they become one of the biggest in Group A.
"It's all in how you look at it," Central junior quarterback Matt Sherfey said. "We're going from being the underdogs to being the big dogs. We know it's not going to be easy. We're going to have to work hard. We're looking forward to it."
"I think it's a good confidence boost for us," Central senior offensive lineman/linebacker Drew Flores said. "We know that even though we're going back down to single-A we can't go in cocky."
Central had plenty of success in Group A before the move up in 2005. The Falcons made the playoffs in both 2003 and 2004 -- the only times the program has made the postseason in football -- and went a combined 17-5 in their last two years in Group A. They were also the Shenandoah District champions in 2003 and co-champions in 2004.
In four years playing in Group AA in the Northwestern District, the Falcons struggled to a 10-30 mark, including 4-24 in league play. Central coach Mike Yew said he didn't think moving to a new classification and district was a big deal.
"The Shenandoah District is one of the toughest single-A districts in the state," Yew said. "You still have to line up and play football.
"I like to think we held our own in the Northwestern District. I have heard some people in the community say that we're battle-tested, so I can go with that. Hopefully it will pay off for us."
The Falcons have some key players returning, which has also given the team extra optimism. One of the biggest is Sherfey, who threw for 1,210 yards last year.
Sherfey said he feels more comfortable coming in this season as the starting quarterback. Last year he took over for injured starter John Baroncelli and kept the spot the remainder of the year. The Falcons lost their top wide receiver, Thomas Cooper, and tight end J.J. Armentrout to graduation. Central participated in a couple of 7-on-7 camps this summer, which helped Sherfey and his new receivers.
"It definitely felt a little weird today having so many new receivers," Sherfey said. "They're doing good. The 7-on-7s definitely helped them to get some of the routes down and they did a good job of executing them."
Sherfey and Bauserman are among several players who were part of Central's boys basketball team last year. The Falcons went 16-8 and just missed making the Region II, Division 3 tournament. Having that success in basketball is added motivation for the upcoming football season.
"Now we want to take that winning attitude that we had in basketball and carry it over to every other sport," Sherfey said. "I think in the offseason we all just sat down and decided we want to get rid of that quitting attitude that we've had in the past. We know we're going to have to work hard. We can't slack off."