Football Preview 2016: Optimism high for Stonewall in Goode’s second year

Stonewall Jackson's Brendan Hoover walks with the ball back to the practice field after a break from a recent practice. Hoover will be handling quarterback duties for the Generals this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

QUICKSBURG – There’s a certain vibe running through members of Stonewall Jackson High School’s football program as the 2016 season approaches, one that is markedly different than last year.

This year marks the second for the Generals under head coach Jay Goode, bringing a sense of comfort and familiarity into the program to replace the uncertainties that came with the introduction of a new coach. Participation in offseason weightlifting was high, and so are the numbers – nearly 70 student-athletes make up this year’s program, Goode said, and the 37 varsity players is a strong total, considering Stonewall drew just 24 varsity athletes in 2014.

Those factors alone had the Generals – winners of only five games in the last four seasons – feeling a bit optimistic as they prepared to kick off their 2016 season with a road game at Shenandoah County rival Strasburg at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

“I think we’ve got the highest expectations of ourselves going into any season,” senior receiver/defensive back Duncan Schroeder said earlier this month. “The attitude is a lot more improved. Like in the past we’ve always gone into the season thinking, ‘We’re Stonewall Jackson, we’re gonna lose’ … but I think the perspective we have this year and the attitude is a lot different in that manner.”

A large part of Stonewall’s positive vibes come from the full installment of a multiple-I offense, a scheme the Generals began implementing in the latter half of 2015 in an effort to phase out the Wing-T that Goode had initially brought to the program.

“One of the reasons there, everybody kind of runs Wing-T up here and everything and until I got up here I really didn’t realize that,” Goode said of the switch. “Even though I’m a big fan of the Wing-T you’ve gotta have certain components to run it. And teams like Wilson (Memorial), those teams that run it up here, they practice it all the time and everything. So I felt going to a multiple-I, it just better suits us. It better suits us as coaches as well.”

The multiple-I offense, which many Generals said resembles the one they grew up learning in youth football under current Stonewall offensive coordinator Bryan Murphy, will need to produce more consistently than it did last fall if the team is to buck its trend of three straight 1-9 seasons. Last year the Generals averaged only 12.6 points per game.

Stonewall returns an experienced core along the offensive line, as seniors Cody Baker, Chance Stroop and James Stunkle and junior Drew Binion are back after starting in 2015. That group will be blocking for some new faces in the backfield, as the Generals lost their top three leading rushers from a season ago.

Goode said juniors Logen Patton and John Howdyshell – a transfer from East Hardy High School in West Virginia – and senior Dylan Vann will likely see a bulk of the carries at running back, while juniors Brandon Lewter, Caleb Fauver and Chad Morse and seniors Schroeder and Tyler Patton will compete for targets at receiver.

Brendan Hoover, a junior, resumes the quarterback responsibilities after moving into the starting role in the second half of the 2015 season.

“Brendan’s just such a leader,” Goode said. “He’s one of these kids that just goes hard all the time. Like the other day he kind of hurt his shoulder in practice and I said man, just sit out a couple plays (and he said), ‘Nah, I’m getting back in there.’ He’s just a competitor and that’s just great to have as a quarterback.”

On defense, Goode said Baker, Binion, sophomore Dakota Bush and junior Chris Williams will see action on the defensive line, with junior Jacob Murphy, Stroop, Stunkle and Vann being among those competing at linebacker. Lewter will see time in a young secondary that Goode said was exposed in a scrimmage against Pendleton County on Aug. 13.

“We’re gonna make some adjustments here and there,” Goode said of Stonewall’s defensive scheme, which operates out of a 4-4 base. “Got a new secondary coach in Jeremy Knight, who helped with basketball and baseball last year, he’s brought some new ideas to the program there.”

Goode said sophomore Blake McCourt will handle kickoffs this season, while Williams will do the punting.

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