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With Stephens out, Brandon needs to take up the slack / August 22, 2013
Roland Brandon likely will step up as the Comets’ feature back in the second year of the Mike Roark era.

Other backs will certainly help, but Brandon becomes a critical factor in the Halifax County High School offense, especially now that quarterback Tyler Stephens is out for five weeks with a broken foot.

Brandon had a pair of impressive moves Friday in a preseason scrimmage against Staunton River. He caught a touchdown pass and then put on a dazzling, electric slide style move on a reverse-field scoring run. Brandon, whose hole opened after a block from teammate Kyle Lacks, expects to showcase more of his offensive eruption Friday when the Comets scrimmage Buckingham at 7 p.m. in the benefit game. HCHS will travel to Buckingham for the game.

The season opener arrives on Friday, Aug. 30, when HCHS travels to Jefferson Forest.

Brandon had a 50-yard touchdown catch from Jacob Garrett and a 65-yard jaunt for another score in the scrimmage.

Brandon will likely have a larger role in the offense with Stevens’ injury.

“We’ve known Roland was going to be a player anyway. He could have played for us last year. He wasn’t big enough yet. Now, the kid’s 165-170” pounds, Roark estimated.

And Brandon has some strength. Roark said the Comet is squatting 315, with power cleans of 200. Roark said Brandon “is a strong little kid.”

Track proved beneficial.

Brandon got a little banged up in track last spring. Brandon ran indoor and outdoor track for HCHS.

“He got a little hurt (in the spring). But he kept doing his therapy and got fixed up there. That goes back to football and track, how they interact with each other. The kid’s quick,” said the coach.

Brandon could do real damage, catching the football and carrying the mail.

“There’s not going to be much of a learning curve for him,” said Roark.

Brandon, a junior, is optimistic heading into the season.

“Basically, everybody is starting to become a family. Everybody has each other’s back,” Brandon said.

Brandon had a particularly impressive touchdown run against SRHS, cutting back across the grain, and exploding into space to sprint past the Golden Eagles’ defense. Certainly, HCHS had an edge in overall athleticism in the scrimmage, and it showed on the play. HCHS had good teamwork on the play, with Lacks’ block opening a significant seam in the defense.

“When I run, I clear my head. I followed Kyle, I broke the tackle. I broke back across the field and I saw green,” said Brandon.

He also ran away from the opposing defenders, starting about the Comet 40. “I had to kick it in second gear on that one,” said Brandon.

Brandon knows he has a significant responsibility to help make up for the loss of Alonzo Bennett to graduation.

“I’ve got to work hard in preseason ... I’ve got to perform to the best of my abilities,” said Brandon.

Brandon likes the Comets’ offensive approach. “It’s made for quick and fast runners. We’re a fast team. We do short, dump passes, quick running plays. Our offense is made to ... get a defense tired.”

Roark hopes to add versatility and the ability to attack with multiple options. Lacks barely missed an explosive catch, and the Comets appear to have very respectable team speed.

The Comets get another look at full speed against Buckingham, with the season opener in less than two weeks.

Brandon is also playing strong safety on defense, and may become a key two-way performer for the Comets.

“For a kid his size, he’s a heck of an athlete,” said Roark. “He sees the field. He’s got vision that you don’t coach. He’ll be fun to watch.”

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