Football Preview 2016: Stroop leading an experienced offensive line for Generals
QUICKSBURG – The players who have stuck with Stonewall Jackson High School’s football program over the last three years have experienced quite a bit of turnover in that span.
The Generals saw longtime head coach Dick Krol retire following the 2014 season, opening a vacancy that was eventually filled by current head coach Jay Goode. With Goode’s arrival came a shift in offensive philosophy, a move away from the triple-option and toward the Wing-T. Stonewall’s new offensive style didn’t even last a full season, as Goode opted to turn to a multiple-I scheme around midseason in 2015, a move that the Generals will carry on into this fall.
Generals senior offensive lineman Chance Stroop said earlier this month that even though they have done three different offenses, he feels like this year has been the easiest.
“The triple-option was real confusing,” Stroop said. “Then we got the new coach and the Wing-T – that was just, with the playbook even it was just a headache and a half. Now we’ve got the (multiple-I) and I feel like it’s clicking inside our heads.”
The consensus among the Generals is that the transition has been a smooth one, which has brought a sense of optimism to a Stonewall offense that has struggled to move the football in recent years. One unit in particular – the offensive line – has Stroop brimming with excitement of what could be in store for a group that returns four starters from a season ago.
“I feel like our line this year is a lot better than it has been in the years past,” Stroop said. “I don’t know if it’s because … we have a new line coach (Pete Lampman) now. I don’t know if he’s running the line differently, if (offensive coordinator Bryan) Murphy told him what we’re capable of doing, but (we’re) doing lots of double teams and pulling and I just feel like the line is more powerful than what it was in the years past.”
That experienced front five for Stonewall’s offense includes seniors Cody Baker and James Stunkle and junior Drew Binion and, of course, Stroop, who has assumed a leadership role along the offensive line and for the Generals as a team.
Goode said kids follow Stroop, who has been a starter – primarily at right guard – for the varsity squad since his sophomore season in 2014.
“He’s just kind of one of those natural leaders, and sometimes that’s hard to find,” Goode said.
That leadership role is one that Stroop said is not purely his own – his “senior buddies” Dylan Vann and Baker each hold a stake in that department as well, Stroop said, as do junior quarterback Brendan Hoover and Jacob Murphy – but it’s one he feels primed for thanks to a high school career that has seen him contribute as a regular starter since joining the junior varsity squad.
Stroop’s leadership isn’t the only aspect of his game that has grown in that period, either.
“I feel like I’ve gotten quicker – a lot quicker. And I can block a lot better too, and that’s not just me but the whole line,” said Stroop, who is listed at 5-foot-9, 233 pounds.
“Just from seeing it in the scrimmage (against Pendleton County on Aug. 13) and practice, we’re firing off a lot harder. I mean last year we would have a scout defense in practice and they would tear up our offense because our line just, I don’t know, just couldn’t block, weren’t firing off right. This year it’s like our offense is unstoppable against the scouting defense.”
Stroop said that in Stonewall’s multiple-I offense the line is being asked to do more double-team and combo blocks, while they are also pulling more than in years past. He said he and the rest of the group had a little trouble grasping the new concepts at first, but sees a great benefit in that relieves some of the pressure that comes with one-on-one blocking against often larger defensive linemen.
The ability of Stroop and the rest of the Generals’ offensive line to continue to improve will be a driving force behind the success of Stonewall’s offense, which will feature some new, inexperienced faces at running back and a relative newcomer in Hoover, who took over as the Generals’ starting quarterback in the latter half of last season.
“We noticed that during the scrimmage (against Pendleton County), there was a couple times that we didn’t fire off the ball when we’d have a couple pass plays where we fire off the ball instead of three-step drop,” Stroop said. “We didn’t fire off hard enough and they (the defensive linemen) shot past us and they got in there to the quarterback. We saw that and we knew instantly that we had to fire off harder and if we don’t protect the quarterback he’s gonna get hurt.
“I mean Hoover’s a small guy and we try to keep him from getting hit as much as we can, and seeing him getting chased by those big 250-pound defensive linemen was just something I don’t wanna see again.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org