By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WINCHESTER -- Brady Hepner is finally where he's always wanted to be.
The James Wood senior played at wide receiver in his first year with the Colonels, but his heart was always at quarterback.
An injury to starting quarterback Cam Butler moved Hepner into the starting quarterback role for half the season last year. This year Hepner will be the starter from the beginning.
"I like having command in the huddle," Hepner said. "It's kind of hard, basically everything revolves around you. If somebody messes up, it's always the quarterback's fault. I like having that on me. It sets high goals for me and high expectations for myself."
Hepner said he grew to like playing at wide receiver when he needed to, and he had plenty of success there.
"That was a big role I had to fill," Hepner said of playing at receiver. "I preferred quarterback, but I was getting touches. ... I started to like it a lot."
As a quarterback last year, Hepner threw for 262 yards, on 25 for 47 passing with a touchdown and two interceptions in five games.
Hepner said the playing time he had last season has paid great dividends going into this season.
"It's gone a lot smoother," Hepner said. "Last year I started out at wide receiver and when Cam got hurt in the first week of pads I had to learn a whole new offense at quarterback. This year I've been warming up to it."
Hepner also ran for 179 yards on 37 carries and three touchdowns. He also had five receptions for 25 yards as a receiver.
James Wood coach Mark McHale said that Hepner worked hard in the offseason, including being in the weight room before basketball practice in the winter.
"That's given him a great leadership role, and respect from the players," McHale said. "He's a great leader, probably one of the best on the team."
McHale said he's seen a lot of improvement from Hepner's passing ability.
"He's had a really good off season throwing," McHale said. "Coach [Josh] Copp has done a good job with him."
Hepner has also been solid running the ball out of the option, and said they will be doing more of that this season. He said his favorite moment last year was against Heritage when he was one of three James Wood players to rush for more than 100 yards.
Hepner also plays on defense. He's played at cornerback the last two years, but will be moved to safety this season.
Last year Hepner had 17 tackles and one interception for the Colonels.
"I like it," Hepner said of playing defense. "Sometimes when I mess up on offense I get a little mad, and I get to go out there on defense and let it all out."
The Colonels have struggled the past few years, going 1-9 in each of their last two campaigns.
Hepner said that the attitude has been much better this season, and the Colonels are ready to turn the corner.
"We're tired of 3-7 and 1-9 and 1-9, those are the past three years, we're ready for a new James Wood football," Hepner said.
Being a senior, Hepner said it makes him even more motivated to be successful.
"As a senior class it's our last year, we have to make this count," Hepner said. "I want to come out in our last year and go out with a bang."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd