Football Preview 2016: Youth will play key role in Colonels’ success

James Wood players do secondary drills during a recent practice. The Colonels will have a young squad this season. Rich Cooley//Daily

WINCHESTER — James Wood will have a blend of youth and experience this season.

The Colonels lost some valuable players from last year’s squad, but despite having only 33 varsity players they have some depth at key positions.

The biggest piece missing for the Colonels is 2016 graduate Tyler Bishop, who ran for 1,549 yards last season and 19 touchdowns.

“We got pretty good depth at running back. We got pretty good competition there,” James Wood coach Mark McHale said.

McHale said fullback Isaac Schrantz will probably lead the way as the Colonels’ top running back with Mark Cisler as his backup.

McHale said that Ryan Rupp, Chris Lakin, Keegean DeHaven, Tyler Arnold and Cody Dahlinger will be competing for the other two starting spots.

James Wood senior Dade Carroll will be back to lead the way at quarterback this season. Carroll threw for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.

“Having that year under his belt — you like that when you got a returning quarterback,” McHale said. “He knows the system. He’s good under pressure.”

Last year Dillon Manuel led the way at wide receiver with 44 catches for 687 yards, but he graduated. McHale said that Carroll will have more options to throw the ball to this year.

“Ryan Bearer, he’s pretty steady,” McHale said. “Josh Kesner — he’s every bit as fast as Dillon and taller, but he’s learning. As the season goes that young man, Josh Kesner, will get better and better.”

Carroll will also have plenty of tight ends to throw to. Noah Sullivan returns as the starting tight end. Last year Sullivan caught 13 passes for 174 yards and one touchdown.

McHale said that Sam Costin and Elijah Filbert will also get some playing time.

The Colonels lost Asa Brewer and Adam Vadell to graduation on the offensive line, but they still have a solid nucleus returning this year.

Dominic Revetta returns at guard, and McHale said that they’ve moved Luke Roy to center. McHale said they have sophomore Kevin Martin and Damien Hale at tackles and said Hale had playing time last year at tackle, but will now be a starter.

Justin Vernosi and Jordan Loy will see playing time at left guard.

Defensively, McHale said that Sullivan has moved from the secondary to inside linebacker. Rupp will also be at inside linebacker. Lakin, and Bearer will play at outside linebacker. McHale said that newcomer Mitch Morris, who plays baseball at James Wood, will also be seeing playing time at linebacker.

“He’s come out for football and he’s had some good practices,” McHale said. “So we got some competition at outside backer.”

Revetta and Schrantz return at defensive tackle, and McHale said Costin and Filbert will play at defensive end.

“We’re young at defensive end, but we’re experienced inside,” McHale said.

McHale said Kesner and Jacob Whitacre will play at free safety with Carroll and Arnold playing at cornerback.

McHale said that there’s been plenty of competition at a lot of spots, which is always a good thing.

“Even though our rosters don’t have a lot of numbers, somehow we’re balanced with competition and we’re blessed,” McHale said. “That doesn’t always happen. So it’s made for good practices. When you got competition you got to practice hard because nobody’s locked in (to their spot).”

McHale said that if his young players can adjust to the varsity level quickly than can have a successful season.

“The key to our football team is they’re going to have the heart. They’re going to play hard, but can the youth catch up to the inexperience and how fast?” McHale said. “As soon as the youth matures I think we’re going to have a really good football team. We’ve got a good mix. They have a great attitude.”

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