Football Preview 2016: Handley eager for a win under new coach

Handley's Tyler Mudd walks on the field during a break in practice. Rich Cooley//Daily

WINCHESTER — Handley enters this season on a 15-game losing streak and first-year coach John Davis said it’s important for his team to stay even-keeled as they try to pick up that first win.

Davis said it’s important for his players not to try to do too much and stay positive.

“We’re on a 15-game losing streak, and when you have those type of things sometimes bad things can creep into your mind when bad things happen,” Davis said. “So I just have to keep my guys on the straight and narrow and having them believe in themselves, and continuing to stay in the system and continuing to take it one step at a time. Just trying not to do too much too fast.”

Davis replaces longtime coach Tony Rayburn, who is now the head coach at Loudoun County.

Davis said he runs practices at a fast pace with a lot of energy, and the players have responded well to it.

“I think they’re learning how I’m just intense all the time,” Davis said. “And how I’m not going to slow down or how I’m going to see them make a mistake or see the little things, like make sure your helmet’s strapped up, make sure that when your inside the lines you’re running at 100 percent. Those are the things that I know helps win football games. So those are the things that I instill in them.”

Davis said he wasn’t sure who the starting quarterback will be. He said senior Quentin Davenport and sophomore Jacob Parker were in a tight battle for the spot.

Parker was the starter last year and threw for 570 yards and five touchdowns.

“They both do some great things,” Davis said. “Jacob’s good at commanding the huddle and kind of moving things along, but Quentin’s just got a wow factor that he just moves the chains. He’s got the ability to run the football and that’s just something that in high school football just breaks games open.”

Davis said that juniors Christian Moten and Tyrese Dudley will be leading the way at running back. Moten has speed, and Dudley has power, and Davis said he’s hoping the combination will work well together.

Senior Tyler Mudd will lead the way at wide receiver. Mudd is coming back from an meniscus tear in his knee that sidelined him all of last season.

“Tyler Mudd is far and away our best receiver,” Davis said. “We’ll put him on the backside and we’re going to dare teams to cover him one-on-one. And when he has that opportunity to make plays we know he’s going to be there. He’s consistent. He’s got great hands. He runs good routes and he blocks well.”

One of the biggest strengths for Handley this season will be their offensive line. Davis said he has four starters back from last year, all of whom are juniors.

Bobby Teahan, Ian Ganey, Bryce McDole and Joe Mammano are all back on the offensive line.

“They all had to play a lot of football, and what that’s done is they’ve learned a lot and they’ve been our most consistent position group,” Davis said. “They’ve been far and away our best group mentally and assignment-wise. So I’m very proud of what we have there.”

Davis said senior Errance Fusco-Grant will be the tight end.

On the defensive line, senior Michael Benetiz-Doleman and Jimmy Vitola will be expected to lead the way.

Davis said senior Diontre Bell, Moten and freshman Quinton Newman should provide a lot of punch at the linebacker spots.

Junior Ra’Shaad Morris will lead the way in the secondary, and Davis said he is the leader of the defense. Last year Morris had 45 tackles.

Mudd and sophomore Kevin Curry will be the cornerbacks.

One area where Davis doesn’t have too worry too much is the kicking game. Senior Aiden Marshall, who has already committed to a preferred walk-on offer at Auburn University, will be doing the kicking and punting.

“We’re excited about what he’s been able to do in the kicking game. We know we’re in good hands with our punting and kicking games,” Davis said. “…He’s kicking with a lot more confidence. We knew coming into fall camp he was our No. 1 defensive weapon just because I know he’s going to put the ball deep and he’ll put some offenses in some bad situations.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com