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Beneath a 3-7 record, many positives for the Barons / November 08, 2017
After making the VHSL postseason playoffs last year for the first time in school history, Bluestone High School football fans and players were hoping for a repeat this season.

But Bluestone finished in eighth place in the James River District with a 3-7 record.

Bluestone head coach Jessie Chropka offers an upbeat perspective on a campaign he rates as a success.

“After a successful 2016-17 season in which the Barons made it to the VHSL playoffs for the first time in school history, many people would consider a 3-7 record a failure or a disappointment,” Chropka said. “But that is because they do not the facts.”

In comparison to last season, Chropka said the facts show, the Barons improved in every area of play. Chropka said those improvements were accomplished even with the players facing obstacles before the season got out of the gate.

Bluestone replaced 17 seniors from 2016-2017, including eight offensive starters and seven defensive starters. Also, the Barons lost two coaches from the previous season including the wide receivers coach and defensive coordinator. Yet, with those losses, the Barons saw little to no decrease in production,” he said.

The team played a 10-game schedule in both seasons; the 11th game from last season was the opening round playoff game.

On offense, Bluestone accumulated 2,777 yards this season, up from 2,762 from 2016. Passing yards of 1,742 played a huge factor in the 2,762 yards of total offense. Bluestone scored 34 TDs this season, in comparison to 31 TDs last season.

The Barons’ defense, which was quite good this season, had 26 forced turnovers and allowed only 667 yards through the air. If Bluestone’s defense had one pitfall, it was the inability of the defensive line to stop or at least slow opponents’ running games on a consistent basis. Yet even this situation improved as the season wore on.

Where the Barons were able to shine this season was in the accomplishments of several individual student-athletes. Seniors Cameron Tucker, Walter Evans, Roger Dailey Jr. and Cedrick Taylor were impact players the entire season.

Junior QB Dale Sturdifen Jr. as well as junior wide-receiver Chris Gregory were a constant threat on the passing game, every contest. Sophomore Neil Clayton Jr. and freshman D’Andre Alexander had strong seasons also as evidenced by the stats below.

Dale Sturdifen Jr. (QB) — 1,742 passing yards, 22 passing TDs, 418 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs.

Chris Gregory (WR) — 686 yards, 14 TDs.

Roger Dailey Jr. (WR/FS) — 447 yards, 5 TDs, 3 interceptions.

Cameron Tucker (TE/LB) — 129 yards, 2 TDs, 140 tackles, 1 interception, 8 forced fumbles.

Cedric Taylor (WR/DB) — 364 yards, 1 TDs, 37 tackles.

Walter Evans (DE) — 73 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 defensive TD.

D’Andre Alexander (LB) — 60 tackles, 10 tackles for losses, and 4 fumble recoveries

Neil Clayton Jr. (LB) — 51 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries.

Chropka said the team and coaches will work hard during the off-season to improve for the 2018 season. He expressed confidence that next season’s team will bring some positives.

“The offense will be returning seven starters next season compared to losing eight from the prior season,” Chropka noted. “The defense will be returning seven starters compared to losing seven the prior season. Additionally, the program will be adding another successful coach to the varsity staff and does not plan to lose any of the current staff members.”

This all sounds good, but fans and players want to see wins and Chropka said the football program is growing into that happening. But first things first.

“I came into this program in 2012 and had no prior knowledge of the program before then and the Barons went 2-9, 3-7, 1-9, and 3-7 from 2012 to 2015, respectively,” said Chropka. “We had made enormous steps in improving the program and changing the culture at Bluestone High School. We have seen great student-athletes come into the program but each year seemed to be a failure as we could not get ourselves into the playoffs. Then in 2016 we got over the hump.

“A lot of people would see that as raising the bar — setting a tone, becoming a staple of the program,” Chropka continued. “But last year we also put two athletes into college to play football. The first two since 2012. This year we may have only won three games but we are looking at putting more kids into college to play football at the next level.

“This season cannot be judged as a failure but its success is on what is happening from the inside. We continue to push our kids to their physical and mental best each day to prepare them to become great additions to the Bluestone community and to play football at the next level.

“This program is not where we want it to be, yet, but we are getting there. Each year we continue to find new ways to enhance our athletes’ athletic ability and find new ways to teach the game of football and life to better our young men and women.

“Each year we learn more about ourselves as coaches, our players, our supporters, and our community. Each year we continue to strive for perfection and though we ended 3-7, we found success in our kids each day. Next year is a new chapter, a new frontier, and is full of potential to continue to build this program to be more successful than the prior years.”

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