By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- James Wood's football team lost plenty of its on-field leadership from last season, as the Colonels graduated 17 seniors from a team that went just 1-9 in 2012.
With so few true varsity veterans returning to this year's team, those who did see significant playing time last season for James Wood will be looked upon to help the Colonels rebound this season under new head coach Mark McHale.
Senior Dakota Orndorff is one of those guys, and the 6-foot, 190-pound wide receiver/cornerback will play a crucial role to the success of the Colonels in 2013.
"He's got a big role, he's playing both ways," McHale said recently. "He's got to make big plays for us."
Orndorff returns for his senior season as James Wood's leading receiver from a year ago, when he caught 32 passes for 453 yards and four touchdowns.
James Wood will need to get that kind of production -- and them some -- again this year as the offense welcomes some new faces across the board. Orndorff's leadership on offense took on an even larger importance earlier this preseason when senior quarterback Cam Butler was diagnosed with mononucleosis and will be out indefinitely.
"I just hope to provide the team with some catches, some yardage, some touchdowns and just help get some wins as a team," Orndorff said. "It's not about one person, it's going to take the whole team to win this year."
In Butler's absence, junior Brady Hepner will step into the starting quarterback role, which is just fine with Orndorff.
Orndorff and Hepner have been good friends for quite some time, as the two have also played baseball together over the years. Orndorff said it hasn't taken long for the duo to develop a good quarterback-receiver connection on the field in practice.
"We've been friends for a while, so we've got good chemistry already," Orndorff said. "The chemistry level is pretty good because we play baseball together and stuff like that."
Defensively, Orndorff will look to help lead a team that struggled to keep opposing offenses contained last season.
The Colonels allowed a whopping 38.6 points per game last year, a number that will need to drop considerably if James Wood hopes to be more competitive on the field this season.
Orndorff said a lot of focus has been placed on the defense so far in practice. James Wood will show multiple looks on defense this season, with the 4-3 likely to play a prominent role, and Orndorff thinks the aggressiveness of the Colonels will play to the team's strength this year.
"I think our defense is going to be a ton better than last year. It's a completely different defense, a lot more aggressive style, and I think that's going to help us," Orndorff said. "I think we're going to create a lot more turnovers than last year."
Orndorff's willingness to step in as a leader for an inexperienced team has caught the eye of McHale, who said Orndorff immediately made a good first impression during offseason workouts as soon as Orndorff arrived following the conclusion of the 2012 baseball season.
"He plays other sports, and he's been a leader in other sports. Kids look up to him. He practices with example, he goes hard," McHale said. "That's how you lead -- you lead by example, and people will follow you. He can be a leader, he can say 'look at me, look what I'm doing,' and that's where he'll be a good asset to us."
Orndorff, who admits that he isn't a big vocal leader, is excited about his increased role with James Wood this year, said knowing what is expected out of the seniors has affected the way he prepares for the upcoming season.
"I've kind of approached it as I've got to work harder because I'm a senior and people look up to seniors. So I've kind of just taken that and kind of ran with it a little bit," Orndorff said. "It's definitely something that I look forward to, just being out there with people that follow behind me. I like being in charge."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org