By Tommy Keeler Jr. -- firstname.lastname@example.org
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson enjoyed a taste of success last year, reaching the playoffs for the first time in a number of years. Now, this season the Generals want to go back for more.
In order to make a return playoff trip, the Generals will need some young players to step up. Stonewall Jackson lost a lot to graduation, especially on the offensive line.
Junior Mike McCampbell is the only lineman with any varsity experience, and Stonewall Jackson head coach Dick Krol said getting experience is the biggest thing for the newcomers.
"[The offensive line] is going to be a big problem until some of these kids step forward," Krol said, "until they get some hits under their belts and they realize what they can do."
Krol said the program is starting to feel the effects of having smaller numbers at the JV level. The Generals don't have the depth they once had. They have 29 players on this year's team, but have already suffered a couple injuries, which hurts the depth even more.
Perhaps the biggest injury has been to Daniel Buhl, who was expected to be the starting quarterback. Buhl broke his fibula a week into practice, and Krol said he was not sure how long he would be out.
Jacob Armell will be the starting quarterback until Buhl gets back. Armell will try to replace the void left by the graduation of John-Michael Pirtle.
"He's an outstanding athlete," Krol said of Armell. "He's quick. He's an intelligent kid."
Krol said Armell was expected to be one of his top wide receivers, but until Buhl gets healthy he will have to rely more on other players. Tight end Patrick Kerlin is back.
The Generals also will get a big boost by the return of Juan Luna, who was stuck in Mexico last year. Luna is expected to be a primary target at the receiver position.
"He's a good athlete," Krol said. "He's so good at soccer that he knows where the ball is coming down. He's learned that from soccer. And he's in position to make catches, and he can catch the football."
The Generals also have some very reliable receivers out of the backfield in Jared Getz and Anthony Peacher. The Generals still will mostly be a run-oriented team, and the duo of Getz and Peacher give them good reason to stick to the ground attack.
Last year the pair combined for 1,094 yards on 180 carries and had 12 touchdowns.
The duo is also very close, and enjoys blocking for each other as well.
"Me and Peacher, we got each other's backs," Getz said. "When I block for him, he blocks for me. It's a good feeling knowing that your buddy's got your back."
Krol said he thinks Peacher is set to have a huge year on the ground.
"Peacher has come along," Krol said. "Early on, he was a flash in the pan. He would get a great run, and then he'd sort of nickel and dime. Now he's the real deal. He's going to be tough. He's about 200 pounds now. He can carry the mail, and he's not slow. He's probably the closest thing to a flashy back that we have. And his head's in the right place."
Luna will return to doing the punting and kicking duties for the Generals. Luna was a Group A first team all-state selection two years ago at punter, where he had a 38.6 average on punts. He also kicked a 44-yard field goal that season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Generals should have a chance to create some havoc. Kerlin and Devon Martin will play at defensive end, while Getz and Peacher lead the way at linebacker.
Luna and Armell will be a big part of the secondary for the Generals.
"Defense is looking great," Peacher said. "Our line is set, our backs are set, safeties are good, pretty straight. I think we're set."
Krol said defense is all about desire, and he said he hopes the players want it bad enough to be successful on defense.
"If you could get 11 screaming kids that just want to go after people you can play defense," Krol said. "Defense is just desire. We're hoping to find 11, I know we got five or six, we just need to find 11."
After making the playoffs last year, the Generals should have enough desire to focus on getting back there. The players are hoping to do even better this season and said last year's playoff loss helps motivate them even more.
"It makes us want to be better than what we were last year," Peacher said of the playoff loss. "It makes us want to push ourselves a little bit more in practice. It makes us run our sprints a little bit harder than we did in the last practice. It makes us give a little bit more in our drills than what we gave the last drill we did. We just try to give all we got into everything."