Washington County football is coming off a 5-6 season that saw them eliminated in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs, and with a huge senior class stepping off the field for the final time in that loss to Glasgow, the Commanders are going to have to learn quickly if they’re going to return to the postseason in 2012.
“We lost 14 seniors, and if I’m not mistaken, we have five new starters (on the offensive line),” said Commander Head Coach Eric Sagrecy. “We lost a bunch of guys, but we’ve got good, young talent, we’re just young. It’s going to take time to develop, and we just have to get better every day and look up at the end of the season and see where we’re at.”
What the Commanders do return are playmakers that can make big plays when they get the ball in their hands.
“Tyler Loving was our starting tailback last year and he’ll be in the same role this year. (Senior wide receiver/defensive back) Alex Marshall took a lot of reps last year,” Sagrecy said. “Other than that, you’re not going to see too many familiar faces. There are some guys like (senior offensive and defensive lineman) Miquail Railey and (junior) Tylyn Byas, who played some corner for us last year, who have been out there, but it’s a pretty new group.”
Loving was the team’s leading rusher last season, with 720 yards on 108 carries (6.7 yards per carry) with eight touchdowns. Marshall was one of former quarterback Trae Abell’s favorite targets last year, reeling in 23 catches for 242 yards in eight games. Marshall said he expects to take his game to another level this season as a senior.
“I’ve got way more responsibility this year, but I think I’ve handled it all right, I know I have to step up,” he said.
“We’re as talented as we’ve been since I’ve been here,” Sagrecy added. “With guys like Tyler Loving, Alex Marshall, Tylyn Byas, Morgan Churchill, Davon Moore and Brent Young, we’ve got some kids that can play, and we can no doubt compete in the district if we do what we need to do in these first four games by taking reps and getting better and being ready to play, because that experience is invaluable.”
With seven seniors, 14 juniors, 12 sophomores and 15 freshmen, experience is clearly the top need for Sagrecy’s young team, as Friday night’s scrimmage against North Oldham was the first time many of the Commanders experienced a varsity atmosphere.
North Oldham pulled away late in the scrimmage for a 30-6 win, but it was much closer than the score indicated, as Sagrecy pointed out.
“For 21 minutes we played really good football against a team that went 8-3 last year and returned every starter except for two,” he said. “We allowed our emotions to get in our way in the last three minutes and gave up three scores. It was 10-6 (North Oldham) and we got the ball back with two-and-a-half minutes to go, and it ended up snowballing at the end.”
He said he saw some holes, particularly on defense, and once he’s reviewed the tape from the scrimmage he’ll make a decision on who will be on the field to start Friday’s season opener at home against Bethlehem at 7:30 p.m., but until then, only a few spots have been determined. However, here have been several new faces that have impressed the coaching staff early on and have a good chance of being in the mix on Friday.
“(Junior offensive lineman/linebacker) Brent Young didn’t play a whole lot last year, but he’s been doing the right things. Miquail Railey, who got a concussion in the Marion County game and we didn’t see a lot last year, has really risen as a leader on the offensive line,” Sagrecy said. “(Running back/linebacker) JaQualin Thompson is a talented sophomore, who I think midway through the season will be an impact player for us. Of course, we’ll get to see (junior) Morgan Churchill in his first year as our quarterback.”
Loving said the offense, spear-headed by Churchill, Marshall and himself, has a chance to put up quite a few points this year, especially if everyone sticks to their assignments.
“This offense can be really good,” he said, “we just have to make sure we pick up the right people when we’re blocking.”
The Commanders now have their sights set on a season-opening win over the Eagles, and to do that, Sagrecy said his team has to fight for the full 48 minutes.
“We’ve got guys that are going to be playing both sides of the ball, and I think we got a little fatigued in the scrimmage, so we just have keep conditioning and get ready for Friday.”