By Jeremy Stafford -- email@example.com
STEPHENS CITY -- It's hard to tell whether Sherando linebacker Baxter Newman is flexing or not. The deep crevices of his arms, which define first his shoulder, then his triceps and biceps before slithering down to his forearm, suggest that he probably is flexing.
But then Newman takes hold of the famed Sherando spear, which is thrust into the field at Arrowhead Stadium to begin every Warriors home game. Newman slowly raises the spear and then violently smashes the blunt end of it into the ground; his muscles explode upon the spear's impact, and he grinds the spear even farther into the ground.
As it turns out, Newman hadn't been flexing earlier.
"I think he's about 210, 215 [pounds] and he's ripped at that weight, so his numbers in the weight room are pretty impressive," Warriors coach Bill Hall said.
"[He's] physically very gifted, so he takes that and puts it to good use on the field."
As a senior, Newman has made sure he puts his leadership qualities to use off the field.
In the offseason, for example, players were awarded points for each lifting session they attended; a certain number of cumulative points was necessary in order to play football.
"Everybody was in there lifting," Newman said. "They didn't even care about the points ... we were in there lifting, having a good time."
Newman said that he was in the weight room so often he couldn't keep track of how many points he had accumulated, and the same could be said for many of his teammates.
The team's dedication to this season, according to Newman and senior linebacker Nick Bakos, stems from the brotherhood which flows from the seniors down through the juniors and underclassmen.
"All three of our linebackers, we're all real good friends. We all hang out, we're always lifting," Bakos said. "I mean our team's closer than last year -- back when we went to the [Group AA] championship, we're that close.
"It's different than last year."
That unity, especially between the linebackers, will help lead a defense that ranked second in the area last season with 187.7 yards allowed per game. Hall said that despite the attention constantly cast upon Sherando's star-studded offense in recent years, it was his defense that most contributed to the Warriors' winning seasons.
"Well, I think our defense has been ranked first or second each of the past six years, so the reason we've won hasn't been because we've had a pretty good offense, but our defense," Hall said. "You win football games with defense and special teams, that's always been a point of emphasis for us."
He expects nothing different this season. With the loss of quarterback Ross Metheny and wideout Derrick Dehaney, Hall hopes that Newman and the rest of the Warrior defense will start the season strong, allowing the offense "time to grow and mature as a unit."
For Newman, who also will spend an occasional play on the defensive line, getting motivated as a defensive unit should hardly be a problem.
"I think we're gonna have a good season," Newman said. "I think we realized what was wrong last year, I think we can capitalize on that and get a better season this year."