By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG -- The 2012 football season was a tremendous letdown for Stonewall Jackson, as the Generals struggled to a 2-8 season after making the playoffs the year before.
Stonewall Jackson, which felt the sting of its general lack of physical size and roster depth last season, finds itself in a similar position again this year as it heads into the 2013 campaign with just 27 players on the roster. That has prompted longtime Generals head coach Dick Krol to make some changes to his team's offense as he attempts to find ways to make Stonewall Jackson more competitive this year.
The Generals, who had ran the power-I on offense for a majority of Krol's 27 seasons at Stonewall Jackson, will be making the switch to the flexbone, an option offense similar to that which is run by college teams such as Georgia Tech and Navy.
Krol said the flexbone allows the Generals to rely more on technique than physical size, something that Stonewall Jackson hasn't had in recent years.
"It comes down to, for all intent and purposes, we ran a power-I. And that's a really physical type of offense, and we're just not big enough to be a totally physical team," Krol said. "We're going to try [the flexbone], and the kids have done pretty well. We've been running the same offense now basically for 20 years, and sometimes you get into a rut where the kids think they know it all because they've run it for four or five years. Now they've got to think a little bit and hopefully it will come out and help us out a little bit.
"It's the future. We're not getting any bigger, we're not going to get any more people out than what we've been getting, so we better look for something that is going to help us out."
A heavy reliance on the running game will be nothing new to Stonewall Jackson (the Generals attempted fewer than 50 passes as a team last season), but Krol said he is concerned about the lack of familiarity of his coaching staff with the new offensive scheme.
Krol said the switch to the flexbone formation was proposed by offensive coordinator Patrick Smoot, who knows several coaches who run the flexbone offense, but the scheme is largely unknown to Krol and his staff outside of Smoot.
"With me, the biggest thing is can we correct mistakes?" Krol said. "Having run the power-I, if we make a mistake, I know how to correct it. But now with the flexbone, if we make a mistake, I'm not sure I know how to correct it."
How exactly the flexbone will play out for the Generals isn't the only question mark that Stonewall Jackson faces on offense this season. The Generals must find a way to replace the offensive production of Jared Getz, Jacob Armell and Anthony Peacher, Stonewall's top three leading rushers a year ago. The trio combined to rush for 1,329 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
Junior Derrick Smith (184 yards, two touchdowns) is the only returning running back with significant varsity experience and he figures to be the primary ball carrier for the Generals this season. Senior Hunter Smootz and freshman Ryan Summers will join Smith in the backfield, among others.
"They all kind of stand out in a different way," said senior Daniel Buhl, who will start at quarterback for the Generals after missing most of last season with a broken leg. "They all work hard, they all have good chemistry, they're all doing the best that they can. We'll just take it slow and they'll learn what they need to do."
Many positions have yet to be fleshed out for the Generals, but seniors Philip Stauffer and Johan Mendez Carrillo, as well as 6-foot-2, 285-pound Central transfer Jacob Helsley could see time on the offensive and defensive lines.
Defensively, Smith (76 tackles) is the returning leading tackler from last season, and Buhl provides a leadership presence at safety. Senior tight end/defensive end Patrick Kerlin has been battling a medical condition, according to Krol, and had yet to be cleared for football activities as of Aug. 12.
Donald Fox III is currently the front-runner to handle the kicking and punting duties after the departure of former all-state punter Juan Luna.
Although Stonewall Jackson faces some uncertainty heading into the 2013 season, the Generals hope to learn from last season and avoid a similar fate. Stauffer said the biggest focus for the Generals will be on becoming more consistent.
"We would go out there and we would hit hard and we'd do everything right the first half. Then the second half we would get a little tired. That's something that we really need to work on, is being consistent the entire game and going out and doing what we can the entire time," Stauffer said. "We need to come out and win the games that we should and play the way that we should."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com