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Falcons are speedy, small

The Fuqua School varsity football team will have a different look in the 2017 season, but if the Falcons remain healthy, they could enjoy similar success to last year.

They reached the 2016 Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division III state semifinals. They fell to Roanoke Catholic School and struggled with injuries, but still finished 6-4 overall.

This year, “we’ve got a bunch of new guys,” Fuqua Head Coach Ben Manis said. “We’ve got a bunch of young guys kind of been sitting behind a big group of seniors that graduated last year.”

The Falcons will once again take on teams from VISAA Division II, which features larger schools, but Manis said a few more teams this season will be from Fuqua’s own division.

“As far as team-wise, I feel like the right things happen and we could be in the running and in the playoffs and all,” Manis said. “But … you drop a game here and there and the right two or three guys get banged up and we barely make it to the playoffs, (or) we’re on the outside looking in.”

Because of lack of depth, the Falcons need to stay healthy.

“We’ve probably got one of the faster teams overall than we’ve had in the past,” the coach said. “We’re probably not as big as we have been in the past.”

He highlighted senior Warren Dabney, noting he has slimmed down, helping enhance his athleticism and gain him more attention from college coaches.

“We’re going to be outside of our norm with some of the stuff we’re doing, especially on defense, with the kind of speed that we have overall,” Manis said. “Hopefully we can make it work. It will be kind of interesting to see how the cards fall.”

Pinpointing a standout position group, the coach said, “Really, I would have never said this, I would have never thought about this, but our receiver group has really come a long way from where they were two and three years ago.”

He said he and his staff are looking to get the ball in receivers’ hands in different ways.

The receiver group includes senior Tyler Thomas, senior Andrew Murphy, senior Clay Osborn, senior Eli Hall and sophomore Chipper Ford.

Though Ford is a new player, Manis indicated he will be a good addition.

“He’s really taken to it,” the coach said.

Manis said the most important contest of the season is game one.

“We can’t look past anybody, look through anybody,” he said.