Eagles To Build Around Sophomores
FARMVILLE – Like most coaches on the high school level, Prince Edward County High School head football coach Terrence Edmonds is an educator first, and a football coach second.
With a team largely built around sophomores, Edmonds will get to blend his two chosen professions of teaching and coaching, as the Eagles only return two starters on offense from last year's team that went 1-9.
“We're looking for anything positive we can build on right now,” said Edmonds. “We're taking a different approach with this group than we would with a team that might be more experienced, so we're looking and pointing out anything positive. All things considered, we've had a good start so far, and they're willing and eager to learn.”
Despite returning a team of largely seniors in 2009, Prince Edward got off to a slow start as things snowballed into the worst season of Edmond's seven years as the head of the program.
“Last year was unexpected, but they didn't work that hard in the preseason, except a player or two, and it quickly showed. We got behind and couldn't catch up.”
In last Friday's scrimmage against Randolph-Henry, the Eagles scored four times (two defensive touchdowns) in three sets of a controlled scrimmage, but lost 1-0 in about a quarter-and-a-half of down-and-distance play.
Defensively, after giving up a couple of big plays early, the Eagles' first unit made an adjustment to hold R-H still for six consecutive plays around the PE 30-yard-line.
“I saw some positives with our defense, and I liked what they did against what looked to be a pretty good Randolph-Henry offensive line. We did give up some big plays on the night, but one of our biggest concerns right now, is to keep our players from dropping their heads after one of those plays.
“During the real-game portion of the night, we gave up a big play and allowed them to get to the five-yard-line. I felt we got down, and they wound up scoring. They need to realize that they're going to give up those plays from time to time. A defense can be playing well, but they might be playing an offense that's clicking.”
Offensively, PE returns just one full-time starter, Raheem Nash. Jeremy Walker, who saw a good bit of time starting at quarterback also returns.
Also returning after two years back for medical reasons is Tyrek Goode, who had a long touchdown pass in Friday night's scrimmage.
“He's our back-up, and he needs to learn the system. He has a strong arm, but he hasn't been able to play since the eighth grade. He has really worked on his footwork, and I think he'll be a good option for us if he's needed.”
A new offensive line will have to quickly get up to speed. The Eagles will run out of the double-wing, but they will also move into multiple formations, including an empty-backfield set, designed to take advantage of the Eagles' speed.
Nash, despite breaking his leg in last year's season-ending game against Southampton, returns almost at full-speed.
“I'm surprised that he was able to recover most of his speed, and still be one of the fastest kids on the team.
“Everything is based out of the double-wing, but we will move out of it when the situation dictates it.”
Friday, 7:30 p.m., Palmyra
The Eagles return to the gridiron with renewed optimism, and they'll admit that after a 1-9 campaign they only have one direction to go.
It starts Friday night at Fluvanna County. The Eagles fell 26-8 last year in the season-opener to a Fluco team that went on to post a 3-7 record.
Based on the 2009 season, Prince Edward has to feel it has a good shot if it can keep turnovers to a minimum.
In last week's scrimmage against Randolph-Henry, the Eagles committed no fumbles in three scrimmage sets and about 18 minutes of down-and-distance play. That was a big improvement over their first scrimmage, in which the Eagles committed five fumbles in just 20 offensive plays.
If Prince Edward can keep fumbles and offensive line mistakes to a minimum, the Eagles' defense has proven so far, albeit in scrimmage conditions, to be effective enough to keep the team in the game.
Prince Edward worked out of the double-wing for much of the night last Friday. When they did open things up, positive things happened. Almost too well. The Eagles quickly moved back into the more conservative set. No need to give opponents too much footage in a scrimmage.
Turnovers and confidence will be the story for the Eagles. With such a young team, an early reward in the form of a victory could turn a rebuilding season into something much more special.