By Jeremy Stafford - email@example.com
STEPHENS CITY -- When dealing with a want of game experience, talent becomes irrelevant. So does speed and reaction time and persistence.
This is especially true at linebacker, a position constantly and consistently centered in the chaos of an unfolding play. Sherando coach Bill Hall has three linebackers to replace in light of the graduation of Baxter Newman, Nick Bakos, and Shawn Branham.
Branham's 150 tackles last season led the area; Newman and Bakos had 97 and 75 tackles, respectively.
And now they're gone.
"You can't substitute the experience of that whole craziness around you," Hall said. [Linebackers] have to be really focused individuals because they have to read off the keys, and they have to see a picture develop, and learn how to fill and plug into where they're supposed to be."
Senior Kevin Vallejos, with one sack to his 2009 season, has solidified himself as Sherando's middle linebacker and the leader of the linebacking corps. The spots at strong and weak side linebacker are still up for grabs.
The same is true at quarterback.
Jalen Brisco and Lucas Tunison are both juniors, and both are having strong preseasons. In recent practices and scrimmages the two have been adept at floating through the pocket, scrambling out of the pocket, and finding open receivers.
Brisco has the most experience of the two, connecting on 21-of-28 passes last season for 351 yards, five touchdowns, and only one interception. Additionally, he rushed for 95 yards on 41 attempts.
"Lucas has done a great job, and I have full faith in Jalen also," Hall said. "We just have to see what the situation is on Friday night.
"I don't hesitate to put either one of them in there -- I think it's good because there's good competition there and that just makes us better, it makes those guys work harder."
Sherando also has a strong tandem at tailback: Juniors Tre Porter and Joseph Ojo boast similar builds, similar speed, and similar talents.
Porter, a three-sport athlete, rushed for 363 yards in the 69 rushes he was allowed at the end of last season. In Sherando's scrimmage against Eastern View, Ojo looked every bit as dynamic as Porter.
There have been few surprises this preseason, Hall said, largely because Sherando has such high expectations for itself.
This season's few startling moments have come in the form of new players coming out for the team. Terry Wood, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound junior, will play tight end after foregoing his sophomore season.
Damian Holland and Chavez Campbell are also new to the team.
Sherando opens its season Friday with a home game against Park View, a team which lost to Handley in the Region II, Division 3 final last season. Sherando beat Park View, 24-21, in the 2009 season-opener on a 41-yard field goal from Justin Haines.
But although Sherando is familiar with Park View's personnel, Hall said there's little comfort in opening the season against a strong football team led by a first-year head coach.
Because no amount of scouting, no amount of speed or talent or tape or know-how can replace playing experience.
"I don't think you're ever at the point you want to be," Hall said. "We've made progress, it's just one of those things where there's always questions going into the first game, and you never really get those answers until you play that first game."