Football practices are underway in the Shenandoah District. The News Leader will start looking at individual teams next week as we preview the season, but for this first Friday afternoon of August let’s look at five questions that will be answered this season:
- Will Riverheads break the state record for consecutive wins? Riverheads hasn’t lost a football game since Oct. 13, 2018, and is three wins shy of breaking the state mark of 52 wins in a row held by Phoebus High School in Hampton. Waynesboro, Parry McCluer and Lord Botetourt stand in the way of the Gladiators reaching that record.
- Can Waynesboro live up to the hype? Coach Brandon Jarvis has revived the program, taking the Little Giants to the playoffs last season after Waynesboro had one win the previous three seasons combined. With one of the top playmakers in the area in running back Ryan Barbour, some see big things from this team in 2022.
- What becomes of Stuarts Draft? Some football programs have success for a few years when a group of talented players come through the school, then disappear. The key to building a program is sustained success. Draft could be doing just that, but this year will tell a lot after losing last year’s amazing senior class. The Cougars have 28 wins and two state championship appearances the past three seasons.
- What impact will new coaches have? Two programs have new head coaches this year. Ray Norcross is at Riverheads, promoted to the top job after years as defensive coordinator under Robert Casto. Replacing a legend is never easy, but Norcross seems well-equipped to keep the juggernaut going in Greenville. Meanwhile, Staunton also has a new coach as Michael Bell was promoted to the job. There seems to be a lot of excitement from the players about Bell. Will that translate to on-field success?
- Who will finish second in the Shenandoah District? I think it’s safe to say most — all? — of those who follow high school football predict Riverheads to be the best in the district again. But who is next? We’ve already said Waynesboro is getting some love. Buffalo Gap returns some talent and should be in the mix. Stuarts Draft seems to always be near the top of the district. And Wilson got off to a strong start last year before some last-season struggles. A case could be made for any of those teams. This should be a fun season.
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Patrick Hite is The News Leader’s education reporter. Story ideas and tips always welcome. Contact Patrick (he/him/his) at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Patrick_Hite. Subscribe to us at newsleader.com