By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson head football coach Dick Krol liked what he saw from his revamped offense during a four-team scrimmage at Quicksburg on Thursday evening.
The Generals, who had run the power-I for most of Krol's 27 seasons at Stonewall, are switching to the flexbone option offense this year, a move that was suggested by offensive coordinator Patrick Smoot this off-season. Stonewall put its new offense to work for the first time this fall during Thursday's scrimmage, which included teams from Manassas Park, Nelson County and Parry McCluer high schools.
"We were pleased. We moved the football. There were still some obvious first time running the offense mistakes that we expected, but overall we moved the football well," Krol said after practice on Friday morning.
Krol was particularly pleased with his group of running backs, and he noted that freshman Ryan Summers, senior Joseph McCabe and senior Hunter Smootz -- all new faces in the Generals' backfield -- surprised him with their play on Thursday.
The longtime coach was also happy with quarterback Daniel Buhl, who "ran the offense extremely well," according to Krol. Buhl completed two passes in the scrimmage, and the Generals did not fumble the football with Buhl taking the snaps, Krol said.
Buhl, who missed all but three games last season after breaking his leg in fall practice, said the Generals are starting to get into a rhythm in their new offense.
"We're still trying to get a good feel, but it's coming along good," Buhl said. "I like the way the mesh feels with our running backs and with the linemen. We'll get there.
"I feel like the chemistry is there. When we're out there we're trying to give our linemen every advantage that we can to help our running backs out, and they're doing a good job."
Krol had expressed concern earlier this month about the ability of the Stonewall coaching staff to identify mistakes and correct them in regards to the new offense, but Krol said the staff felt much better about the offense after seeing it in action on Thursday.
"[Smoot] watched the films and picked up a few things that need to be worked on," Krol said. "There were mistakes and there were miscues and there were things that we have to work on, but we know what they are."
FILLING IN THE GAPS: Stonewall Jackson enters the 2013 season needing to replace its top three leading rushers from a year ago, but Thursday's scrimmage made the backfield picture a little clearer.
Junior Derrick Smith (184 yards, two touchdowns in 2012) entered fall practice as the Generals' starting running back and firmly remains in that role, but Krol now has a better idea of who will be joining Smith in the backfield when Stonewall opens the season next Friday against Strasburg.
Krol is particularly high on the freshman Summers, who is a bit undersized at 5-foot-8, 141 pounds, but could prove to be a valuable two-way player for Stonewall this season. Summers' performance on Thursday gave Krol some confidence in placing the freshman at one of the starting slot back positions.
"We know he's a good athlete and that's why he's with us as a freshman. The first couple of plays he said he was very nervous, but then when he settled down he did things well both offensively and defensively," Krol said. "He made a couple nice plays defensively and he ran the ball well, so he was a nice surprise."
Krol said he was also impressed with McCabe (5-foot-10, 177 pounds), a converted offensive guard who brings a physical presence to the Generals' backfield.
"His blocking from the slot back position was great, and that to me is a positive. When you get a back that is willing to block as well as run, you've got a great kid," Krol said.
Smootz, who is playing high school football for the first time, also remains as a top-three candidate at slot back and could work his way into a starting role, Krol said.
ON THE MEND: The Generals are still waiting for the return of senior wide receiver/defensive end Patrick Kerlin, who is currently with the team but has yet to participate in fall practice.
Krol isn't willing to get into specifics about Kerlin's condition, although Krol did say that Kerlin will be out until at least Sept. 5 under doctor's orders.
Kerlin has been a mainstay on the defensive line at Stonewall for two seasons, and the 5-foot-10, 169-pound senior finished with 49 tackles last year.
Senior Nathan Jones is currently playing wide receiver and defensive end, and McCabe and Smootz are also getting playing time at the other defensive end spot. However, Krol said that Kerlin will be a two-way starter for the Generals when he's healthy.
"We've got some people stepping in, but when [Kerlin] gets back, he is the defensive end," Krol said.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org