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Many schools have changed divisions. Some have changed districts. Old rivalries are being renewed.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Lord Botetourt running back Chris Thompson ran for 1,512 yards last season.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Glenvar’s Levi Mullins passed for 2,457 yards in 2012.
The Roanoke Times | File 2008
Floyd County’s Winfred Beale needs two victories to reach 200 for his career.
DON PETERSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times
Patrick Henry assistant coach Anthony Drakeford (left) works with receiver Isac Henderson during preseason practice Thursday.
DON PETERSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times
Patrick Henry High School head football coach Alan Fiddler (center) works with junior varsity quarterbacks Miles Lowman (left) and Amondrae Alexander during practice Thursday.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
The field still measures 100 yards long.
Quarters still last 12 minutes.
Touchdowns are still worth six points.
High school football practice began Thursday in Virginia with those traditional boundaries, values and measurements intact.
However, plenty of numbers have changed for 2013.
The Virginia High School League has adopted a new six-classification system for all its sports, with the four highest football divisions adopting the expanded playoff format used by Division 2 and Division 1 for the past two years.
Many schools have changed divisions. Some have changed districts. The districts have been devalued and the old regional playoff format has been eliminated.
The annual Roanoke Times "10 things to watch"? This year call it the big two and the little eight.
1. Alphabet soup
Here is some of what you need to know about VHSL redistricting and reclassification as it relates to football:
2. Devalued districts
Five Timesland schools have changed districts and the Western Valley District has disappeared.
Patrick Henry (River Ridge), Franklin County (Piedmont), William Fleming (Blue Ridge), Carroll County (River Ridge) and Marion (Hogoheegee) are in new leagues.
Because of the presence of Division 6 schools such as Patrick Henry and Franklin County in districts that include much smaller Division 3 schools, the VHSL is not requiring any school to play an opponent three classifications larger in size.
Blacksburg and Cave Spring are not playing Patrick Henry in the River Ridge. Martinsville and Patrick County are not playing Franklin County in the Piedmont.
As a result, neither of those districts will play a full round-robin schedule. The River Ridge and Piedmont will not have district standings and will not be able to recognize a regular-season champion. Others are free to crown a "champion," but finishing first in a district will no longer guarantee a playoff berth.
Few schools could feel the impact of the district shifts on the football field more than Carroll County and Patrick County.
Carroll County - formerly a member of the Southwest District - is playing Salem, Patrick Henry, Pulaski County, Hidden Valley, Cave Spring and Blacksburg in place of Bassett, Grayson County, Martinsville, Abingdon, Richlands, Tazewell and Patrick County.
Patrick County - which finished 0-10 last year - has added new Piedmont members George Washington and Halifax County to its schedule along with Heritage.
3. Rivalries rekindled
Reclassification has refired at least one long-dormant rivalry, while two other neighboring schools are playing each other for the first time in 20 years.
Patrick Henry's move to the River Ridge has the Patriots facing Salem for the first time since 1995. The Patriots and Spartans play Sept. 6 in Salem.
PH is one of the few schools that holds an all-time edge over its former Roanoke Valley District rival, leading the series 7-5.
Two former New River Valley District rivals - Blacksburg and Radford - are playing each other for the first time since 1993. The series went dark when Radford moved to the Group A Three Rivers District in 1994.
Blacksburg is at Radford on Sept. 20. The Bruins also play Gretna, meaning they will face teams coached by brothers, Radford's Matthew Saunders and Gretna's Kevin Saunders.
William Fleming and Northside are playing each other after a three-year absence, now that the Colonels are in the Blue Ridge. The Colonels and Vikings play at Fleming on Oct. 4.
Five Timesland schools will begin 2013 with a clean head coaching slate.
A pair of Martins have the task of rebuilding once-proud programs.
Bobby Martin is the new head coach at William Fleming, which is coming off three straight losing seasons including a 1-9 record in 2012.
Martin coached George Washington to the Western Valley District title last fall. He also led GW to a Group AAA championship game as the Eagles boys basketball coach before he left that post halfway through the 2011-12 season.
Martin's nephew, Orion Martin, is the new coach at Martinsville, which also finished 1-9 in 2012. Orion Martin was an assistant at Franklin County last fall.
Both Martins are former Virginia Tech players. Orion Martin was a defensive standout for the Hokies when they defeated Cincinnati in the 2009 Orange Bowl.
Martinsville visits Fleming on Sept. 6.
Three other Timesland schools have a new coach.
Gary Burdette moves up from an assistant's post at Alleghany to replace Jack Baker, who left to become the head coach at Rustburg.
Eastern Montgomery hired former Thomas Walker head coach Brian Lee to replace Mark Poston, who is now the head coach at Nelson County.
Chilhowie's new coach is Jeff Robinson, who is also the Warriors baseball coach. Robinson replaced Larry Russell, who retired as the school's career leader in victories with 84.
5. Lot o' veterans
Thirty-nine, 34, 33, 15, 12.
Those might sound like winning numbers in the Cash 5 lottery, but they represent the five longest coaching tenures at Timesland schools.
Blacksburg's David Crist heads the list as he begins his 39th season as the program's head coach.
Crist is followed by William Byrd's Jeff Highfill (34th season); Floyd County's Winfred Beale (33rd season); Carroll County's Tom Hale (15th season); and Christiansburg's Tim Cromer, Liberty's Chris Watts and Bath County's Will Fields, who all are in their 12th season.
Who says longevity doesn't exist in high school coaching? Nineteen Timesland coaches have been at the same job for nine or more years.
6. Arms race?
Will Timesland teams take to the air in 2013?
Perhaps, if the answer is based on a glance at 2012 regular-season statistics.
Six of the top eight and 15 of the top 25 leaders in passing yardage in Timesland return this year. Six of those players were sophomores and one was a freshman.
Among those back for another season are Glenvar's Levi Mullins (2,457 yards), North Cross' Max Revercomb (1,754), Carroll County's Connor Lundy (1,723), Alleghany's Nick Ferrell (1,659), Jefferson Forest's Ryan Crist (1,533), Grayson County's Max Rodgers (1,408), William Fleming's Tyrell Adams (1,053), Magna Vista's Calin Jamison (1,035), Floyd County's Matt Bary (979), Covington's Luke Moye (966), Liberty's Austin Porter (941), Patrick County's Tre Penn (918), Northside's Dom Dunnaville (899), Blacksburg's Kaleb Bohrnstedt (814) and Narrows' Rodney Perdue.
7. On the run
While veteran quarterbacks are plentiful, Lord Botetourt senior Chris Thompson is the only returning running back who finished in the top 10 of the 2012 Timesland stats.
Thompson was a workhorse with 286 carries in 10 games for 1,512 yards, ranking him No. 6 in Timesland.
Matthew Smith of Liberty and Brett Whitlow of Giles also topped the 1,000-yard mark last year as sophomores along with returning seniors Steven Peoples of Galax, Calin Jamison of Magna Vista and Walker Brand of Hidden Valley. Jamison was Magna Vista's quarterback.
8. The next level
Three linemen from Timesland schools already have received major FBS scholarship offers and two of them are underclassmen.
Fort Chiswell senior center Coleman Thomas has committed to Tennessee, whose 2014 class has been ranked No. 1 in the country by at least one service. Thomas plans to enroll at Tennessee in January.
Northside junior defensive lineman Chance Hall (6-6, 265) and Rockbridge County junior offensive lineman Austin Clark (6-6, 270) also have offers. Hall picked up an offer from Maryland last winter, while Clark garnered an offer this spring from Virginia and has since been offered by Penn State, North Carolina, Duke, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Tennessee.
Northside and Rockbridge close out the regular season Nov. 8 in Lexington.
Who is the most valuable player to his team in Timesland?
William Byrd senior quarterback Zac Hill has to be near the top of the list.
Byrd led Northside 24-13 in a Blue Ridge District game last fall before Hill left the game with a dislocated left elbow.
Hill missed the next two games and the Terriers lost both. Cleared to play in a Region III Division 4 first-round playoff game against Lord Botetourt, he rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-0 win.
Despite missing two and a half games, Hill led Byrd in rushing with 988 yards, finishing with 1,236 counting the postseason.
Salem senior Devante Payne bounced back from a knee injury he suffered in late October to lead the Spartans in rushing and help them to a berth in the Group AA Division 4 semifinals.
Two Timesland coaches could hit significant plateaus early this season.
Floyd County's Winfred Beale needs two victories to reach 200 for his career.
Meanwhile, Salem's Stephen Magenbauer is just three wins from No. 100 at Salem in just his 10th season.
Magenbauer's record at Salem is 97-16, good for an 85.8 winning percentage. Counting two seasons each at Glenvar and Hidden Valley, his overall record is 115-37.
William Byrd senior running back Simeon Horstmann needs 1,158 yards this season to reach 4,000 for his career.
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