2015 Football: Success not simple for Eagles
BERRYVILLE — One might think that to coach football at Clarke County High School football, one roster is substituted for the next and it just keeps rolling.
Certainly, the Eagles’ record would prove that. Head coach Chris Parker — 97 career victories — has seen back-to-back squads finish the last two regular seasons undefeated, playing deep into the Group 2A playoffs.
Clarke has done that, but it takes more than rolling the football out on Wilbur Feltner Field and watching what happens.
Parker has built a program where it’s a matter of “next man up,” but he says there is more to it than that.
“I think the fact that we’ve been winning helps build our roster numbers up,” Parker said. “But it’s also about the system we run, the loyalty of the coaches and the players and our weight program.”
Parker coaches the versatile single-wing where several ballplayers in the backfield carry, hand off and/or pass the ball. Also, the head man has a staff that coaches other sports, and also shares the high school building with the team.
“We have really unselfish coaches. Most of them coach other sports and most of them are in the building. That helps. I teach a weightlifting course and see the players almost every day,” said Parker.
And, as for that weight program, Parker and his staff of Casey Childs, Brent Emmart, Rick Sjostrom, Andre Kidrick, Jesse Hudson, Jon Novick and Matt Ernst have devised a reward system to acknowledge the top lifters.
This season two-way lineman Julius Grant carried off the Platinum Iron Eagle trophy, having raised more pounds than anyone else. His total amounted to 1,535 pounds in four separate exercises. There were seven Eagles who reached the 1,200 plateau. The latter youngsters earn T-shirts.
“We test them on the first day of practice, so we know they’ve been working out in the summer,” said Parker.
Grant, a senior, is one of eight starters who return on offense, and among the seven defenders who come back from last season’s 11-1 finish.
He will be joined on the interior by offensive lineman/linebacker Josh Wallace.
The offense will be spurred by running back-linebacker Hunter Rogers, who rushed for 1,258 yards (8.1 average per carry), and running back/cornerback Matt Dang.
While Rogers and Dang could find themselves taking shotgun snaps in the backfield and then optioning out of it, the ultimate responsibility will fall on the shoulders of senior quarterback-defensive back Jordan Turner.
Turner played only a half-season a year ago due to a broken collarbone. In the six games in which the then-junior appeared, he carried the ball 29 times for 213 yards (7.3) and three touchdowns.
He will try to replace Sean McDonald, one of the school’s all-time best athletes. In three years as the starting QB, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound signal caller set the career passing record. He was a three-year starter who scored 39 TDs, rushed for 1,314 yards and passed for 888 his senior year.
Sean McDonald’s younger brother, junior Brett McDonald, returns as a receiver/defensive back.
The Eagles would like to top last season, when the team made it to the second round of the conference playoffs.
“Our sophomore year we got to the third round, last year it was the second, we don’t want to go backwards,” said Dang. “That’s not our plan. We want to win a state championship.”
Dang added, “We’re an optimistic bunch.”
“Our senior class (22 strong) is kind of different you could say,” he added.
Parker welcomed some 60 players to the varsity level. About 20 more Eagles are on the junior varsity team.