Chip shots: Kickoff looms

It seems like one high school sports season just ended.
Now another one is right around the corner.
It’s hard to believe, but fall sports are screaming upon us. Area golf teams will tee up in earnest on Aug. 1 and area cross country and volleyball teams will start their seasons during the last full week of August.
And yes, football is coming, too.
Area football teams can officially start practice at the end of this month and you can bet the coaches already are stressing about what promises to be an interesting fall where some new faces must emerge in key positions.
For example in Class 4, many of the areas most dynamic rushers and receivers have moved on. Handley’s Stephen Daley (1,785), James Wood’s Wes Brondos (1,128) and Sherando’s Cam Sullivan (1,016), our area’s only Class 4 rushers to top 700 yards, have each graduated.
The same goes for the area’s top three in receiving yardage — Millbrook’s C.J. Standen (1,024), Handley’s Jacob Duffy (790) and James Wood’s Jaden Ashby (667).
The dynamic Daley (156) and Ashby (150) were the area’s scoring leaders by a wide margin and to no surprise both are headed to Division I schools this fall.
Clarke County, with its grinding attack, is the only area school which has its top rusher returning. Aside from the Class 4 trio, the Eagles’ Kyler Darlington (1,292) was the only other area player to top 1,000 yards and score (112) more than 100 points.
While the rushing and receiving has taken a hit, surprisingly each area team has experience returning at quarterback. Handley’s Davion Butler, James Wood’s Jared Neal and Millbrook’s Detric Brown started each game for their teams last season. Sherando’s Micah Carlson saw extensive action when starter Dylan Rodeffer was injured. Matthew Sipe returns for his third season under center with Clarke County.
How the teams fill vacancies on offense, the line is always a huge concern, will be of huge interest. There are also some gaping holes on defense with several of the areas top tacklers, including Sherando’s Aydan Willis (145), James Wood’s Ryan King (111) and Millbrook’s Aidan Long (86) having graduated. So have sack leaders Daley (14) and James Wood’s Caleb Keefer (9) and Brendan Cassidy (7.5).
And nearly all of the area programs are coming off seasons in which they made the regional playoffs. Handley, James Wood and Sherando qualified for three of the four district spots in Region 4C and Clarke County captured the Bull Run District title on the way to a Region 2B berth.
Area fans won’t have long to wait long to see how a couple of those teams match up and who will take the early lead to win the Barr-Lindon Crimson Apple as the top Winchester/Frederick County team.
When the season officially kicks off on Aug. 26, Sherando will travel to James Wood. After being dominated in the series, the Colonels have won two straight against the Warriors.
Sherando travels to Millbrook on Sept. 23 and the Pioneers will host Handley on Oct. 7. Handley travels to Sherando on Oct. 14. Millbrook’s regular-season finale is at James Wood on Oct. 28. On the road, the Colonels are also the last regular-season opponent for Handley on Nov. 5.
All of the area teams will be looking to knock off Kettle Run, which has won back-to-back Class 4 Northwestern District titles. James Wood (Sept. 23) gets the first crack at the Cougars, followed by Millbrook (Oct. 14), Handley (Oct. 22) and Sherando (Nov. 4).
Clarke County has an interesting schedule this season. Starting with their opener against Class 3 Warren County on Aug. 26, the Eagles will play up in classification four times in the regular season. Clarke County also has games scheduled against Class 3 Manassas Park (Sept. 2) and Meridian (Oct. 14) and Class 4 Lightridge (Sept. 30). The Eagles face always tough Central (Sept. 16) and end the season with consecutive games against historically tough Bull Run opponents East Rockingham (Oct. 21), Luray (Oct. 28) and Page County (Nov. 4).
Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons are looking to be must-see entertainment on the gridiron.
And the kickoff will be here before you know it.