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By Jeremy Stafford firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah's offense isn't going through quite the overhaul its defense did last season, when it switched from a base 4-3 to a 3-4. It's nothing that drastic.
But the slight change -- essentially a broadening of the Hornets' spread and option games -- should in theory send Shenandoah to the end zone a bit more often.
Last season Shenandoah's offense was in something of a transitional phase. The backfield still boasted 240-pound tailback Keone Kyle, the kind of running back that's come to embody the Hornets' power running game; but it also saw the rise of quarterback Daniel Wright and wideout Rico Wallace -- a pairing built for big-time thrills.
So the offense was in flux. Sometimes Kyle pummeled his way through the trenches. Sometimes Wright and Wallace played catch downfield.
There won't be much pummeling this year.
"It's not going to be the Shenandoah you've always seen," Wright said. "It's gonna be different, and I think a lot of teams are going to be shocked when they come and see what we've been doing, and what we're putting in."
Shenandoah coach Paul Barnes said that if last year he called running plays 70 percent of the time, this year he'll call them only about half the time.
Whatever the offense will look like, it -- and the Hornets' new white uniforms -- will be on display tonight at 7 p.m., when Shenandoah hosts Stevenson at home.
The goals for the offense remain the same, Wright said. The Hornets want to rack up 350 yards a game. They want to score a touchdown every quarter.
Last season SU averaged 18.7 points a game -- just over two touchdowns and a field goal. It was the Shenandoah defense, in its first year in the 3-4, that gave up nearly four scores a game (27.2 points).
There's reason to think this year might be different.
Shenandoah returns its entire back seven, including strong safety Larry Gibbs and linebackers Corey Giffing and John Redmond. The only turnover comes on the defensive line, and junior lineman Nick Erdman, a starter last year, seems happy with what Preston Funk and Dustin Rowland have accomplished this preseason.
It's simply a matter of transferring that performance from the preseason to the regular season. Shenandoah has ambitions to mind, after all.
"The hope is to keep everyone under 14 points," Erdman said. "We want to cause a lot more turnovers, because last year we didn't get enough.
"We want the defensive line to get more sacks. I only got five last year, and we need to get Preston and Dustin some stats right now."
Accompanying Redmond and Giffing at linebacker are Jajuan Johnson and Joshua Rogers, who had a superb freshman season after Redmond's year ended with a knee injury. Giffing set an SU record last year with 101 tackles.
Seniors Derrick Brown and Phil Volz will rotate at one cornerback position, and Brendon Martin and Pat Purcell will rotate at the other. Byron Mitchell will start at free safety.
The experience of Shenandoah's secondary, Gibbs said, will allow for more aggressive playcalling.
"We can send a ton more blitzes just because our secondary's more experienced," Gibbs said. "Everyone knows their job, so we can definitely send a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks."
On special teams, James Wood graduate Andrew Lloyd, once recruited by Virginia Tech, returns as place kicker. Cory Gay returns as punter.
But former Liberty (Bealeton) wide receiver Derrick Lee does not return as a kick and punt returner. A year ago Lee was immediately seen by Barnes as the solution to SU's once atrocious, and sometimes hurtful, return game. Instead, sophomore Darious Green will return kicks.