By Tommy Keeler Jr.
It's that time of year again. The time most of us have been waiting for. Football season is starting up.
The first high school practices are under way. Most college football teams are also back at it, or getting ready to be back at it. Even the first NFL preseason game is this weekend.
Anybody that's been craving football season, like I have, should head out to some of the local football practices and see how the local schools are doing.
As much as I like the college and pros, there's nothing quite like high school football, or maybe more importantly Friday Night Lights. This season should be as interesting as any, and so I thought I would take a look at some of the big questions as the season starts to get under way.
1. How will the new six-classification system affect the upcoming football season? This is probably the biggest question on everyone's minds this year. Honestly, I don't think it will be that big of a change for football. Group A schools used the new playoff format for the last few years, so it really won't be a change for Strasburg or Stonewall Jackson. Central will also be used to it, but they are the only school in our area that is changing classifications, moving from 2A to 3A. The Falcons, who have had some playoff success the past few years, will have it even tougher if they make the playoffs this year. Sherando is the only local team in 4A. Skyline and Warren County will also be in 3A. The Wildcats move from the Evergreen to the Bull Run District this season.
2. How will Strasburg fare without Rakwon White? The Rams will certainly miss the running back/linebacker, who had 2,467 yards rushing last year. Strasburg should still have several offensive linemen back from last season and tight end Jonathan Kloosterman should also be back. Strasburg coach Mark Roller has done a good job of turning the program around over the last few years, and I would expect the Rams to still have a solid team again this season. I'm sure they will have a number of tailbacks who will step up and help fill the void left by White.
3. Will Skyline and/or Warren County continue their recent success? Both Front Royal schools lost quite a bit from last year's teams, but both programs have been solid for a few years. I think both teams will continue their recent trend and make the playoffs. Both schools have had good numbers in their programs over the last few years, and I expect that to continue and pay off as new players step up and make a difference. With the new VHSL system the way it is, it's possible they could even meet in the playoffs. That would certainly be exciting for Front Royal.
4. Will Sherando's tradition keep going? The Warriors have been a fixture as one of the top teams in the Northwestern District and in the region for years now. Sherando lost quite a few key players to graduation, including tailback Taylor Loudan and defensive end Chris Smith. Still, the Warriors should have some solid pieces returning such as running back/linebacker George Aston and quarterback/defensive back Reid Entsminger. Things will certainly be a little tougher in 4A now, with schools such as Phoebus and Lakeland moving down. Sherando coach Bill Hall usually finds a way to get the most out of his players, and I would expect more of the same this season.
5. Can Central continue its playoff run? The Falcons reached the second round of the playoffs two years ago. Then they made it a step further last year. They should have most of their core players back from last season, losing only nine players to graduation. There's good reason for expectations to be high in Woodstock. However, with the move up to 3A the playoffs will be much more difficult this year. Not only will the Falcons have to deal with Warren County in their district, but schools such as James Monroe, Poquoson, Brookville, Monticello and Kettle Run have been dominant in 3A over the last decade. Central coach Mike Yew has done a good job in turning the program around, and I expect the Falcons to have another strong season this year and maybe even surprise a few teams in the playoffs.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org