Without three-time Piedmont District Offensive Player of the Year Harvey Taylor and 15 other seniors from an 11-1 team the year before, Magna Vista’s football team knew there would be growing pains as it began 2012.
And while there were several rough patches in its season-opening scrimmage Friday against William Byrd, the next generation of Warriors also took their first steps toward growing up.
After falling behind 6-0 early, Magna Vista scored 20 straight points to come away with a 20-12 win over the Terriers during a controlled scrimmage in Ridgeway.
“You know, at first (the offense) was a little off, but once we started kicking it in we got a hold of it,” said MVHS senior running back and safety Keon Mabin, who scored a rushing touchdown. “I think we’ll do really well with the new players we have this year.”
While the Warriors finished strong, they started anything but.
The scrimmage was arranged in a way that each team received three sets of 10 offense plays in the first half before reverting to a more standard playing format after intermission.
Magna Vista received the ball first, and the four yard loss it took on its first play was a harbinger of the rest of the series.
The best offense statistically in the Piedmont District for three seasons running failed to gain a first down in its first set of plays, and when William Byrd methodically drove it down the field for a touchdown on its first drive, it appeared the scrimmage might not be much of a matchup.
“The first 10 plays, we were just nervous, too excited, just missing some assignments,” Magna Vista coach Joe Favero said. “But once we calmed down, I thought we did a lot better job offensively. You know, offensively, you can’t just play on emotion, and starting on offense our guys were a little too fired up.”
Magna Vista gained two first downs in its next opportunity with the ball before breaking through for a score on its third chance.
And, fittingly for a team trying to infuse a bunch of new players into starting roles, the first score of the year came via a freshman.
On a second-and-7, newcomer Jacqez Hairston took a carry up the middle and initially appeared destined to be swallowed up in the Terriers’ defensive line.
But Hairston made a hard jump cut to his left to find a crease toward the outside, then made another quick cut to his right and all the way across the field to get himself clear of William Byrd’s linebackers and secondary.
From there, speed won out — and the Warriors wouldn’t trail again.
“It’s just like, whew,” Hairston said of the competition for playing time on the Warriors. “Since I’m a freshman, I’ve got to fight for my spot and everybody’s going hard so I’ve got to go as hard as I can.
“(The touchdown) doesn’t mean I’ve got to stop working.”
Mabin added to Magna Vista’s lead on a 26-yard rumble to the end zone to begin the second half, and the Warriors’ final points came off a 65-yard pass from Calin Jamison to Brent Hankins.
Magna Vista’s defense also turned it up a notch after the half, forcing William Byrd into four turnovers — three fumbles and a Mabin interception — to help put the game away.
As expected, Jamison and Basil Mott evenly split time at quarterback during the scrimmage, and Favero said both played well enough to keep the competition for the starting spot fairly even.
Jamison finished with the biggest highlight in the 65-yard TD pass to Hankins, but Mott also completed several first-down passes and showed a willingness to try and get tough yardage on read-option plays.
“They do a good job. Both of them are executing the offense the way we want them to,” Favero said. “They’re throwing to primary receivers, they’re making the correct reads on run plays, and they understand what we’re trying to do offensively.”
The Warriors travel to Dan River for a benefit game Friday in their final dress rehearsal before the season starts Aug. 24.