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Posted August 27, 2010 | comments Leave a comment

Generals senior grows into starting role

Stonewall Jackson's Cole Shaffer
Stonewall Jackson's Cole Shaffer began last season as the team's fourth-string running back, but saw plenty of action in the backfield due to injuries. This season, Shaffer is the team's opening-game starter. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Jeremy Stafford - jstafford@nvdaily.com

QUICKSBURG -- Cole Shaffer, once a thin fourth-string tailback at Stonewall Jackson, has added a little weight to his frame, literally and figuratively.

Figuratively speaking, because of the graduations of former tailbacks Dylan Dawson and Colton Koontz, Shaffer took it upon himself to shoulder the brunt of the Generals' carries this fall.

In the literal sense, Shaffer added 17 pounds of muscle in the off-season, bringing him to 195 pounds, so he could withstand the pounding he'll likely take.

Shaffer saw his share of carries last season: Koontz missed most of the Generals' non-district schedule with a broken ankle, and Dawson missed a game with an injury of his own.

The opportunity to play, Shaffer admitted, was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, he hated to see Koontz, whom he often trained with, missing time his senior season. On the other hand, had Dawson and Koontz remained healthy, Shaffer likely never would have gotten the 24 carries and 104 yards he had last season.

The experience was invaluable, and it showed Shaffer that, as the likely starter in 2010, he needed a bit of size to complement his speed.

A year ago Shaffer was known only as a blazer, a track and field state champion decked out in football pads.

"Linebackers looked awful big last year," he said with a laugh. "Hopefully they won't be so big this year."

Not long after he and the Generals' 4x400-meter relay team won the Group A state championship in May, Shaffer hit the gym ... and the buffets.

His summer mornings began with a breakfast of as many eggs as he could stomach. Then he ate more eggs. Then more.

He tried to eat a dozen eggs a day, which was difficult. He splattered the yellow morsels with hot sauce to give them taste; he turned to steak as an alternate source of protein.

Basically, in order to quickly gain the size required of a starting tailback, Shaffer had to eat and lift like a lineman, "trying to get big like them, but still stay fast."

Shaffer ate at buffets, he lifted five or six times a week; the muscle he eventually gained surprised his teammates when they saw him for Stonewall Jackson's first pre-season practice.

But considering Shaffer gained 17 pounds, he must have lost at least some amount of speed -- right?

"Since track, I haven't lost any speed," he said with a sly smile.

In addition to the massive amounts of eating and lifting, Shaffer ran quickness drills and short sprints.

But there were other voids left by the departures of Dawson and Koontz, voids having less to do with running between the tackles, and more to do with keeping the Generals both excited and focused.

That void is for Shaffer and Stonewall Jackson quarterback John-Michael Pirtle to fill.

"Me and John-Michael try to lead the defense," Shaffer said, "try to keep talking to everybody and make sure everybody's got the energy out there on the field, and knows what they're doing."

Although the Generals are deep at tailback, they lack experience at several other positions.

They're also undersized at several positions.

Which is why the extra load of work Shaffer shouldered in July could breed positive results this season.

"They all got reps when things were starting to fall apart a little bit with injuries," Pirtle said of Shaffer and the other backs getting playing time last season," and that was a good little showing of what we had for the future -- and they looked great."

BREAKING DOWN THE GENERALS

    Coach: Dick Krol (24th year, 130-115)
    League: Group A Shenandoah District
    Offense/Defense: Power I/50
    Key returnees: QB/DB John-Michael Pirtle, RB/DB Cole Shaffer, FB/LB Sean Stroop, OL/LB Will Rotondi
    Key losses: RB/LB Colton Koontz, RB/LB Dylan Dawson, RB/LB Jordan Laughlin

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