By Tommy Keeler Jr.
QUICKSBURG -- It will certainly be a different kind of season for Stonewall Jackson this year. This year won't be about wins and losses so much as simply staying healthy and finishing the season.
The Generals had an unusually low turnout this season, and almost didn't field a team. They will start the season with 24 players, and head coach Dick Krol said health will certainly be a factor for the team.
"It comes down to the simple fact that we have to stay healthy," Krol said. "And to do that we have to be in shape. We have to work hard, and we have to keep moving. It's hard to hit a moving target."
Obviously, the Generals will not have a lot of depth and Krol said a lot of players will have to play close to 48 minutes each game.
That doesn't mean the Generals won't have some talent on the field. Stonewall Jackson does return running back Derrick Smith, who rushed for 992 yards last season.
The senior had 167 yards in his final game last season with four touchdowns.
Joining Smith in the backfield will be sophomore Ryan Summers and senior Matt Murphy, who will be the fullback.
"He's a hard-nosed kid, and we think he's going to be good for us," Krol said of Murphy.
Junior Nathan Miller will be the quarterback, after being the back-up last season, and will probably run some out of the option this year as well.
A key for the Generals will be the play of the offensive line.
"You can't go anywhere with four good backs, unless you got something in front of them, and that's what we got to watch," Krol said.
Phillip Mallow, tackle, and Jacob Helsley, center, return on the line for the Generals. James Stunkle and Coy Wilkerson will be at the guard spots. The other tackle spot is up in the air between Chance Stroop or Nicholas Kato.
Tyler Patton and Jonathan May are battling for the tight end spot.
The Generals should have a reason to do something they rarely do -- throw the football.
Junior Michael Knauff has good hands according to Krol and will be the primary target for Miller.
The Generals will be running out of the I formation this season, after switching to the wishbone last year.
"I felt sorry, because [assistant coach] Patrick [Smoot] had done such a good job with the [wishbone] offense that he put in," Krol said. "It was a good offense. I have nothing against the offense or anything, it was just that under the circumstances this year, I wanted something that was going to protect most people the best we could. The only way I could do that was with the I."
Many of the same names will be valuable to the Generals on the defensive side of the ball.
Mallow, Wilkerson, Drew Binion and Helsley will help lead the way on the defensive line for the Generals. At the linebacking spots it will be Smith, Summers and Murphy, while Knauff, Miller and Brendan Hoover lead the secondary.
Krol said the linebackers and secondary is where they lack the most depth.
"We have a few people that we can back them up with, but again at the skill positions -- defensive backs and linebackers -- we're sparse," Krol said. "The line, we can put a few more kids in there."
Krol said Smith will do the punting for the Generals.
The schedule will certainly not be easy for the Generals as they start off with Shenandoah County rivals Strasburg and Central, and then play Bull Run District powerhouse Clarke County.
Then they have to play in an always competitive Shenandoah District.
"It's tough playing in the Shenandoah District," Smith said. "I'm used to it by now, but it is tough knowing that we were once one of those tough teams, and now we're more to the bottom. But I still look forward to playing all of them."
The Generals went 1-9 last year, and Smith said his goal is to win more games this season.
Krol said his goals for the team this year are very simple.
"My goal for the season is just to get through the season," Krol said. "There's a lot of pride here that we will finish the season. If we can be competitive and stay healthy, that's all I can ask from the kids under the circumstances. Anything above that will be gravy."