The high school football season is over for the schools in Martinsville, and Henry and Patrick Counties. It didn’t go as fans were hoping for all four schools, but what fans should be excited for is next year.
Magna Vista finished at 5-6, Bassett at 3-7, Patrick County at 2-8 and Martinsville at 1-9. None of those records are anything to write home about, but looking ahead to next year, all of those teams have reason to be eager for August to come back.
Bassett graduates the most seniors (13) of the four. Magna Vista had 12 seniors, Martinsville had 11 and Patrick County had eight. Those seniors are good, impactful players in all positions, but the amount of younger players who got the chance to suit up and play meaningful minutes throughout the season does nothing but benefit these teams come 2019. Seniors are important, no matter the number of them, in building or continuing a culture. That’s what these seniors did for their respective programs this year and they will absolutely be missed. But don’t think that when the 2019 season begins their fingerprints won’t be all over what takes place.
Yes, Magna Vista took a “step back” after losing in the opening round of the Region 3D playoffs. But of those 12 seniors a handful of them weren’t in uniform for Friday’s loss to Tunstall due to injury, including last season’s quarterback Akira Greenfield, who tore his ACL before the season even began.
Even so, the number of seniors on Magna Vista was as low as it’s ever been under Head Coach Joe Favero. That left openings for underclassmen to step in and play much more than in previous years. The Warriors have the likes of quarterback Dryus Hairston (sophomore), running back Louis Taylor (junior), every wide receiver who played (not including Nate Washington who was also lost for the season with a knee injury) and a number of offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers who all played a lot of snaps in 2018. Next season could be a return to form for the Warriors with all of that talent coming back. It may be the most returners Favero has had in his tenure.
In Bassett, 12 seniors is a lot for a team of that roster size, but those seniors’ impact on building head coach Brandon Johnson’s “All-In” mentality was more important than the wins and losses. Guys like Devontay Ross, Darien Craig, Marshall Wells, Noah Inman, Devyn Haynes, Caleb Belcher and the rest of that senior class played critical roles on the field, but off the field is where their impact was felt. That opens the door for next season when the Bengals return a number of impact players to year three of this rebuild.
Kevon Smith (junior), Austin McDaniel (junior), Dylan Hairfield (junior), Jaylen Turner (junior) and a number of other underclassmen who played a lot of snaps will all be back with another year under their belt, and all of those players gained confidence by winning games against Magna Vista and at home against Martinsville and Patrick County. Expect another jump from the Bengals in 2019.
In Martinsville, numbers hurt the Bulldogs all season long. The lack of players forced Head Coach Nathan Tanner to play a lot of young players throughout the season, even some who were JV players. That led to some lopsided games on Friday nights. Yes, the Bulldogs will have to replace running back/quarterback Nigal Davis, arguably the most talented player in the district, but one thing Martinsville will never be short on is athletes. Ask people around the JV or even the middle school programs and they’ll tell you that the future Bulldogs are athletic and when they get up to varsity they will be able to make plays and win games.
Delvin Roberts and Troy Odell were two players who were forced into the fire this season when they were likely to play more JV snaps instead. Those are guys hoping to take a major leap next season, among others.
In Stuart, the Cougars return a number of playmakers including leading rusher Dae’Shawn Penn. The only position that really takes a hit for the Cougars is out wide with the losses of Josh Cockram, Chase Jessup and Garrett Worley. But Will Sprowl will return from injury at quarterback, Bryson Fulcher, who played QB in the final game, is back, interceptions leader Chris Drewery will return and a number of underclassmen on the offensive and defensive lines and in the linebacker core has head coach David Morrison eager for year three in his rebuilding process.
By no means was 2018 a banner year for the local football teams, but it was a good year in terms of setting up the future. Each and every team has reason to believe 2019 will result in playoff games, and no matter what happens then, that’s the next step in the process for most of them.
If we’re sitting here at this time next season and the records look like they do now, then I might be on board with fans’ worries, but my expectations for 2019 are as high as they’ve been for all four of our teams.
I said it earlier this season that the Piedmont District is as good as it’s been in recent memory. The year 2019 might take it to another level.