High School Football Notebook: A slow start to the season
Published 10:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2023
Last year, the Randolph-Henry Statesmen started things off with a 19-6 win over Nelson County. In fact, the last time the Governors had picked up a win in the series was 2019. Things didn’t go so well this time around. The Statesmen lost 28-14 in this season’s opening game.
Randolph-Henry Coach Ray Conner had said in our preseason interview that in order to win, the team would need some players to grow and develop. One of the challenges facing this year’s team involves both sides of the line. The Statesmen saw multiple offensive line and defensive line starters graduate after last season, so again, some players will just have to grow into their new roles.
“We have to put some pieces together on that offensive and defensive line, but we can do that,” Conner said in the preseason discussion. “It just takes time. Even with the loss of so many kids on both lines, I think we have the potential to be better than last season. We just have a lot of athletes who can make things happen.”
Randolph-Henry goes on the road again this week, taking on James River Friday, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
HEAT CAUSES PROBLEMS FOR EAGLES
We talked Friday about the fact all of these high school football teams played their heart out despite rough weather conditions. On Friday afternoon around 3 p.m., the temperature was 97 degrees in Farmville. By gametime at 7 p.m., that had dropped down to 89 degrees, just around 95 on the field. Coaches also pointed out the heat and its impact on the athletes played a role in several games. That was especially true for Prince Edward, as several Eagles went down in the second half with what Coach Larry White said were heat cramps. Then the team also suffered some additional injuries. All of that played a role in Prince Edward’s second half struggles, White said, as the team went from being up 30-14 with 10 minutes in the third to a 44-30 loss.
“The first half, we played good fundamental football,” White said. “Then kids started cramping up (and) injuries started occurring. We just fell apart in the second half. Give credit to (the) Chatham coaching staff on making adjustments in the second half.”
Still, White said injuries happen and the Eagles have to develop that ‘next man up’ mentality.
“Giving up 30 unanswered points is unacceptable,” White said. “We have to regroup and get ready for Altavista on Friday.”
That will be a road game for Prince Edward, with a 7 p.m. kickoff.
KAVALIERS KICK OFF SEASON WITH WIN
Last season was a rough one for the Kenston Forest Kavaliers. Going 3-7, the team gave up 126 points more than they scored. They also finished with a four-game losing streak, including a 56-0 final against Brunswick Academy. But there was a benefit, as many players of the young team got their first real game experience on the high school level.
Now that experience is paying off. The Kavaliers beat Greenbrier Christian Academy 36-14 in the season’s first game. Now Kenston Forest plays a bit different, as they and the Virginia Independent Schools Football League in general, use 8 on 8 rules.
This is mainly used by schools and divisions with smaller enrollments. Typically, most offenses have two fewer offensive tackles and one less receiver, but a creative coach can mix and match. Players also compete on a smaller field. The width of the field is 40 yards. That’s about 13 1/3 narrower than the traditional field, which is 53 1/3 wide. All of that translates to a much faster game than regular high school football, with scores that can reach the 70s at times.
The Kavaliers will now prepare for Massanutten Military Academy, which struggled during week one. The Colonels lost to Richmond Christian 46-6 in a league challenge.
LUNENBURG LOOKS TO FIX DEFENSE
Coach Will Thomas said while his Central Lunenburg Chargers learned a lot in Friday’s win, there’s still plenty they need to work on. The team erased an early deficit in their 2023 home opener against Altavista and held off the Colonels, 26-14.
“We don’t like to do anything the easy way,” Thomas said. “They’ve got some big guys and they’re improved. We just had so many mistakes and that strip for a return hurt us. We did play pretty well defensively in the first half and offensively we moved the ball.”
Lunenburg appeared to be on its way to scoring first after moving the chains near the red zone.
However, a strip and fumble that Altavista returned roughly 70 yards for a touchdown, followed by a successful two-point conversion, allowed the Colonels to take an 8-0 lead. Thomias Morrison had a 12-yard scoring run to pull the Chargers within one. Morrison also picked off a pass late in the second quarter.
“They were loading the box and daring us to throw,” Thomas noted. “Even though we only completed one pass, we needed it because it was like third-and-9 in the first half to keep that second touchdown drive alive. We got exactly nine with Reece completing it to Seth Bishop.”
Mattox ran in the second of his three touchdowns in the third period to push the lead to 20-8. Altavista cut the deficit to 20-14 in the fourth quarter. That’s when Mattox broke off a long scamper to put the game away.
“We’ve got a lot of kids that are not only young, but their first year of playing football was last year,” Thomas said. “We’re just green and working on the football smarts. I think that comes with putting yourselves in situations that you’re not used to, and as a coach even though you’ve got to be patient, you always want them to get better yesterday.”
Now Central goes on the road, where they’ll face William Campbell.