2015 Football: Falcons ‘hungry’ after missing playoffs in 2014

Central's Varsey Bright (21) wards off a John Champe defender during their game last season in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily file

WOODSTOCK – Central High School’s streak of three consecutive football playoff appearances came to an end last season when the Falcons went 4-6 behind a host of new faces that made up nearly every position.

But when Falcons head coach Mike Yew looks back on his team’s 2014 campaign, he sees some silver linings. Last season offered valuable playing time for many of this fall’s returning players, and the experience of seeing that postseason streak come to an end – and coming so tantalizingly close to keeping it alive – had the Falcons feeling eager to get back to work in 2015.

“They know that we were two plays from being 6-4 and probably being a 12 seed (in the Region 3A East playoffs),” Yew said recently, referring to last-minute losses to Spotswood and Strasburg, the latter of which came in Central’s 2014 season finale. “But everything happens for a reason … and I think going 4-6 was probably better for us in the long run because we’re a little hungry now.”

Yew said the Falcons, who now compete in the VHSL Group 2A classification, came into fall camp looking noticeably upbeat, a mentality that sophomore tight end/linebacker Bryan Davis said continued to exist throughout the team following Central’s first scrimmage of the preseason on Aug. 13.

“We’re looking good,” Davis said. “I’m feeling good about this season. Feeling great. The environment’s good. We have team captains looking good and stuff. I think we can make some noise this season.”

Central returns six starters on offense and seven on defense, including senior running back/linebacker Hank Hoover, who led the Falcons in rushing (923 yards), total touchdowns (13) and total tackles (62) a season ago.

One key position Central will be inexperienced is at quarterback, where the Falcons will feature their third different starter in as many seasons. Senior Jordon Hosaflook and junior Colton Hutchinson competed for the role left open by the graduation of 2014 starter Sam Barbour, and Yew said in mid-August the quarterback competition was “60-40 in Hosaflook’s favor.”

“I think both of our quarterbacks can absolutely get it done,” Yew said. “Hossy … throws a better deep ball. He’s got a stronger arm. Hutch does a good job of running the offense, handing the ball off, throwing the underneath stuff. If either one are in the game we can move the ball.”

Hosaflook, who played for Central’s JV team as a freshman, returns to the Falcons’ program after spending his previous two years of high school in West Virginia. Hosaflook’s prior experience in Central’s system has helped ease the acclimation process, senior receiver Tristan Rau said.

“We’re all used to him because he was here his freshman year. He played on JV with us,” said Rau, a first-team All-Conference 28 selection who caught 24 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. “He hasn’t really changed since then so it hasn’t been very hard adjusting to him. We’ve got some new plays on offense and we’re just trying to get them in. It’s rolling now.”

Hosaflook, who will also play safety for the Falcons, will benefit from having experience around him at the skill positions and along the offensive line. In addition to Davis at tight end, Central’s offensive line includes three returning starters in seniors Codey Heltzel, Todd Stocking and junior Alex Sibert, although Central’s lack of depth due to below-average roster size could bring some challenges to that position group.

“We’re just very thin up front,” Yew said. “We have five linemen that start, probably have one or two more that are ready to go in now and then after that we may be moving some tight ends or fullbacks to the line.”

Defensively, Heltzel and senior Matt Edwards return to the line while senior Carston Shockey retains his role as a starting cornerback in the secondary. But the unit’s true strength lies at linebacker, where veterans Davis, Hoover, Stocking, Brandon Braithwaite and Trey Riley all return.

“As they go, we’ll go,” Yew said of the linebackers. “If they have a bad game it could be a long night for us. If they play well, we’ll have a good night.”

Clifton Croom returns to handle the kicking duties for the Falcons, and Yew said the junior entered camp with a stronger leg after attending some kicking camps over the summer. Croom made six field goals last season and Yew said he anticipates using Croom for attempts up to 38 yards out.

Central opens the 2015 season at home against Skyline tonight, the first of three straight home games in a stretch that includes Stonewall Jackson and Turner Ashby before opening Bull Run District play with defending district champion Clarke County.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com