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SoVaNow.com / August 15, 2013With only two starters back on offense and defense, it would appear head coach Mike Roark and the Halifax County High School varsity football staff might have a major rebuilding job after last year’s 3-7 mark.
But there are legitimate reasons to believe that the Comets may well finish at least .500, perhaps collecting enough points for a playoff run.
HCHS has decent athleticism and size.
The Comets worked harder than they had in recent seasons on off-season conditioning and those popular 7-on-7 drills, getting a look at top flight competition at times.
It’s the second year of Roark’s system and the players should be at least more familiar with the coach’s scheme. The schedule might offer HCHS a few breaks, with four of the first six games at home, including long-time rival GW.
The Comets are headed to the Piedmont district, which includes Martinsville, Bassett, Patrick County, Magna Vista, GW-Danville, Franklin County and Tunstall. Halifax’s goal is to pile up enough points to make the 16-team field for the Northwest Regionals in the Comets’ new 5-A classification.
There are six different classifications in all, which means more opportunities for the Comets to win another state title in their strongest sports, with the Virginia High School league crowning six champions in the major sports this year.
GOALS: HCHS, which finished 1-3 in the final year of the Western Valley district, needs a stronger finishing kick on Friday nights.
“We’ve got to close a few more of the games. Last year, we lost four games by a total of 17 points. We were ahead in six games at halftime,” said Roark. The Comets need more consistency in the second half.
HCHS should have more confidence. “They now believe they can do some things. That’s the first step. We’ll just take a few more steps,” said Roark.
HCHS has slightly easier logistics and travel demands, with most of the district running along U.S. 58, with Franklin County the notable exception. The trip to Patrick County will be the longest of the regular season.
Halifax opens with Jefferson Forest, and Don Rice, the J-F head coach, has six players back on offense and six on defense for a playoff team. J-F has some talent back, including the quarterback.
HCHS then plays Glass in the home opener, and the Hilltoppers are building again. The Hilltoppers did go to the playoffs.
Person County is the third game, followed by a week off. The Comets get GW at home, with a new coach there.
Martinsville also has a new coach, with Bassett, Patrick County, and Magna Vista the next three games afterwards.
HCHS has to go to Franklin County, which will be seeking redemption after losing to the Comets in South Boston. The season ends with a home regular season finale with Tunstall, which had a deep playoff run all the way to the state semifinals, and appears to be changing its football culture.
Roark said the Comets need to pass more. At the end of the year, the Comets were approximately 80-20 in favor of the run. “I want to be more of that 55-45 (balance). I think we’re going to be better in the perimeter,” said Roark.
HCHS should be more balanced offensively, not having to rely for more of the offense through Alonzo Bennett (now in JUCO football in California) and Tyler Stevens (who has returned). “We’ve got a few more guys here now. We’ll spead the ball out, I think we can throw the ball out in perimeter a little quicker, make some things happen in space,” said Roark.
THE OFFENSE: HCHS should have a strong offensive line, and some of these performers will benefit from traveling to the Cleveland Browns training camp for the NFL High School player development competitions.
Casey Abedeljalil will see action at left tackle, and he played a lot last year as a junior, with R.J. Scott the quick guard. Scott, a sophomore, is in his first tour of duty with the varsity. He played jayvee as a freshman last year.
Twan Tucker will handle center, and he’s a senior and a first time starter. The strong side guard will be Nelson Pringle, a sophomore who played jayvee last year as a freshman and Jarius Mariable, who is the strong side tackle. Mariable played a lot last year.
Four of the five linemen went to the Ohio NFL camp, including Pringle, Mariable, Scott and Abedeljalil. “It helped them, because they started seeing how they compete. They competed well and that’s huge. They had to pick it up a notch (in the NFL HS camp),” said Roark.
The tight ends could be Trey Morgan, R.J. Oliver, or Jamall Hubbard, and Roark has to figure out a solution there. HCHS has a scrimmage Friday against Staunton River, so the staff will be looking for answers there.
Roark also thinks he has sufficient size on the line. “We’re bigger than last year,” said Roark.
Morgan could play in the offensive backfield, with Stevens possibly moving there, too.
At wide receiver, Truman Brown has been working hard. Kyle Lacks, also the place-kicker when needed, has been a major surprise in camp. Lacks is getting reps at slot, and is one of the fastest kids on the team.
Track standout Devan Richardson, will also help the offense. Richardson adds to the speed quality of this team, and then some.
Roland Brandon, who also has speed, figures to be a key part of the offense in the slot. “He’s going to get the ball anywhere and everywhere,” said Roark.
Markyee Thomas will also help in the backfield.
The Comets are expected to play Kyran Adams and Jacob Garrett at quarterback, with the starter undecided at the moment. The scrimmage will tell more, and Garrett can also help in the backfield.
HCHS will use a spread gun offensive scheme.
The Comets will use the traditional running back by committee approach. Bennett was the workhorse of the offense last year, but HCHS will have more options this season.
And Roark - along with the staff - will be looking for some more definitive answers as preseason camp proceeds.
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