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Opening night: Sherando QBs, Clarke County offense under spotlight as prep football begins

Sherando quarterback Corey Rice throws during practice on Thursday. Rice will start tonight in the Warriors' opener. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Sherando quarterback Jalen Brisco, bothered by an injured hip, watches practice from the bench on Thursday in Stephens City. Brisco, a sophomore, will share quarterback duties with senior Corey Rice. Dennis Grundman/Daily

By Tommy Keeler Jr. and Jeremy Stafford -- sports@nvdaily.com

Given Corey Rice's performance in his three starts last season -- 22-of-33 for 304 yards and a touchdown -- it's no wonder Sherando coach Bill Hall named him the Warriors' starting quarterback for Sherando's game tonight at Park View.

The senior has proven he has a thorough understanding of Hall's playbook, and has shown in practice that he can heave the ball downfield.

Which isn't to say that backup quarterback Jalen Brisco, who for the time being is sidelined with a hip injury, won't get his share of snaps.

Rice and Brisco both saw time at quarterback last season, and both proved to be capable quarterbacks in their own way. Brisco, an able thrower, rushed for 6.9 yards per carry as a quarterback last season. Hall said that Rice and Brisco are so familiar with the Sherando offense that neither will limit Hall's playcalling. Hall expects both to play, and both to execute the entire offense.

"I think they both ... bring different attributes to the table," Hall said. "And it gives [our opponents] something else to think about, and makes our offense a little bit more multiple.

"We use our weapons, that's the thing we usually try to pride ourselves on, is getting the best 11 on the field."

READY TO GO: Clarke County coach Chris Parker said he's noticed his players getting more excited as opening day nears. The Eagles return several key players from last year's team, which went 9-3 and advanced to the Region B, Division 2 final. The team is eager to pick up where it left off.

"Winning breeds winning," Parker said. "We have some momentum from last season and the players would like to keep it going.

"We also have a strong senior group and I think they're excited to start things off and have a great senior year."

Clarke County opens its season tonight at Berkeley Springs, which is a Class AA school in West Virginia. The Eagles also have a road trip to Class AAA Hedgesville (W.Va.) next week, and play host to 2008 playoff participant Cumberland.

Parker said the Eagles had four teams drop them from the schedule and it just worked out that they were able to get good programs as replacements.

"This week will be our first test of the season," Parker said. "I think it will be a good test for us."

EXPERIENCED GROUP: Warren County coach Tony Tallent can see a big difference in his team so far this season.

Seven of his seniors started when they were freshman and Tallent said he's seen them improve over the last few years.

"I've really seen the kids mature," Tallent said. "They do everything you ask them to do. I think our team just continues to get better. They've really made some strides. They know what to expect now."

The Wildcats open their season tonight at Strasburg, a team Warren County beat 43-20 last year. Tallent said he expects a competitive game.

"I know that Strasburg is a vastly improved ballclub from last year's team," Tallent said. "I know that they're well-coached. I think it will be a great ballgame."

CHAMPING AT THE BIT: With the preseason winding down, and opening day kickoff drawing nearer, Strasburg coach Mark Roller said his Rams are "looking forward to getting the season started."

Strasburg will face a tough stretch of games to open the season, playing Group AA schools Warren County and Skyline before hosting former Group AA school Central.

Roller said that playing AA schools early in the season will better prepare the Rams for those tough district games against Clarke County and Madison County later in the season.

"You play Warren County and Skyline, and the thing you hope is that you don't get anyone injured," Roller said. "At the same time, it can help get your team ready going into the district schedule.

"Playing the Warren County's and Skyline's will definitely benefit us."

NEW BACKFIELD: With the loss of Calvin Rodney, Allen Silver and Livingston Smith to graduation, Millbrook will have a brand new backfield this season.

Millbrook coach Reed Prosser said Rylan Banks, Jordan Hartman and Josh Cassagranda will see the bulk of the playing time in the backfield. Last year, Hartman ran for 191 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns. Banks had 32 carries for 105 yards and two scores.

"I think their experience last year definitely helps," Prosser said of Banks and Hartman. "They both understand what Friday nights are all about."

The Pioneers open their season tonight against Briar Woods, who has been a big rival the last few years. Two years ago Briar Woods beat Millbrook in the regular season, but the Pioneers got revenge with a victory in the Region II, Division 3 semifinals. Last year Briar Woods beat Millbrook in the season opener for both teams.

Millbrook and Briar Woods each lost in the first round of the playoffs.

"They have a quality football program," Prosser said of Briar Woods. "Just like us they are really young and they have some holes they're trying to fill."

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