Six schools with a new head coach.

Timesland’s largest school moving to a new district.

Other schools dropping to new VHSL classifications.

A defending state champion with a 31-game win streak.

New rules on the field and the possibility of video replay.

Those are some of the 10 things to watch in the 2019 high school football season.

As practice begins Thursday and the calendar turns to August, let’s kick it off.

1. Change at the top

Salem made the biggest offseason news when Stephen Magenbauer resigned after winning 169 games and five state championships in 15 seasons.

Don Holter was promoted to his first head coaching job following stints as an assistant at Salem, Lord Botetourt, Franklin County and William Fleming.

William Byrd has a new coach for the first time in 38 seasons as former Broadway head coach Brad Lutz replaced Jeff Highfill, who coached 396 games for the Terriers.

Lutz is taking the Terriers to Shrine Mont in western Shenandoah County near the West Virginia border for the first three days of practice.

Bobby Martin is back on the sidelines, as the former William Fleming head coach (2013-17) has taken over for Nathan Tanner at Martinsville.

Martin, a Henry County native who played at old Laurel Park High before a career at Virginia Tech, also was a head coach at George Washington and Bassett.

Staunton River has its third head coach since the end of the 2017 season.

Former assistant Shaun Leonard was promoted to replace interim coach Brian Divers, who replaced new coach Jeremy Haymore two games into the 2018 season.

Leonard is a William Byrd graduate who was the Golden Eagles’ defensive coordinator in 2018.

Tim Jennings left his athletic director’s role at James River to replace Jake Phillips as head coach.

Phillips is the new coach at Staunton, formerly known as Robert E. Lee High.

Jefferson Forest’s job opened when Bob Christmas left for Seminole District rival Amherst County.

In stepped Paul White, a Ferrum graduate who was an assistant at Permian High School in Odessa, Texas. White also had short stints in Virginia as a head coach at Gloucester and Mathews.

2. Don’t run out of ink

When it comes to FBS recruits in Timesland, the ‘B’ might stand for Botetourt.

Lord Botetourt has five players — including a pair of transfers — with at least one major Division I offer.

Junior lineman Colston Powers has offers from Virginia, Louisville, Old Dominion, West Virginia, Iowa State and Coastal Carolina.

Junior running back Hunter Rice counts offers from UVa, Liberty and Coastal Carolina.

Senior defensive back Evan Eller’s offers are from Air Force, Army, Navy and Massachusetts.

Defensive end Isaiah Stephens, who transferred from Northside, has offers from Coastal Carolina and Charlotte.

Lineman Gage Bassham, a transfer from Abingdon, has offers from Old Dominion, Liberty and Marshall.

Elsewhere, Radford senior lineman Ben Cox has committed to Vanderbilt, while Magna Vista senior back Louis Taylor is headed to Liberty.

Carroll County receiver/athlete Stephen Gosnell, a transfer from East Surry High in North Carolina, has committed to N.C. State.

Jefferson Forest senior running back Keenan Cupit has committed to Central Florida over offers from UVa, ODU and Appalachian State.

North Cross senior receiver/defensive back Zae Baines (UVa, Purdue, Duke, Cincinnati, ODU, East Carolina, Temple, Liberty, Appalachian State) also has multiple offers.

3. New neighbors

Six Timesland schools have dropped to a lower VHSL enrollment classification including moves by Bassett, Carroll County and William Byrd from Class 4 to Class 3.

Alleghany and Patrick County have moved from Class 3 to Class 2, while Grayson County has dropped from Class 2 to Class 1.

Significant changes have been made to region alignments.

Region 5D and Region 4D each have only eight members, meaning all teams in both regions — including Patrick Henry and William Fleming — will advance to the playoffs.

The Region 4D lineup is down to Amherst County, Blacksburg, E.C. Glass, George Washington, Halifax County, Jefferson Forest, Pulaski County and Salem.

All eight of those schools also will automatically qualify for the playoffs.

Franklin County has moved from what was a seven-member Region 6B to Region 6A, which has 11 schools.

Virginia Beach schools Floyd Kellam, Landstown, Ocean Lakes and Tallwood are in Region 6A along with perennial Class 6 power Oscar Smith.

Statewide, other schools in new classifications include 2018 Class 4 champion Woodgrove (Class 5), 17-time state champion Hampton (Class 4), Tuscarora (Class 4), Broad Run (Class 4), Liberty Christian (Class 3), Charlottesville (Class 3), Lafayette (Class 3) and Goochland (Class 3).

Region 3C now includes 16 schools with the addition of Charlottesville, LCA and Wilson Memorial.

4. Eagles leave the Piedmont nest

Franklin County won’t just have a new region to call home.

The Eagles will join the Blue Ridge District after spending the last six years in the Piedmont District.

Initially, it means new opponents and shorter road trips for Franklin County. Gone from the schedule are Halifax County, George Washington, Bassett and Tunstall. Coming on board are Northside, Lord Botetourt, William Fleming and William Byrd to go with holdovers Staunton River, Liberty, Salem, E.C. Glass, Magna Vista and Hidden Valley.

  • Rural Retreat has rejoined the Hogoheegee District after a two-year stint in the Mountain Empire.

5. On solid ground

Glenvar moved Region 2C “home” playoff games to Dwight Bogle Stadium and Salem Stadium last year because its grass field was unplayable.

That will not happen in 2019 as Glenvar will become the ninth Timesland facility to have installed artificial turf.

The other Timesland schools that play home games on artificial turf are Salem, Cave Spring, Hidden Valley, Patrick Henry, William Fleming, Jefferson Forest, Galax, William Byrd and Christiansburg. Cave Spring and Hidden Valley share Bogle Stadium.

Blacksburg, which moved all four of its playoff games to Christiansburg last fall, could be the next Timesland school to cut its grass.

6. Fancy meeting you here this year

VHSL redistricting and reclassification usually means new football opponents for many schools.

Only three Timesland schools — Floyd County, Giles and Bland County — have the same 10 opponents they faced in 2018.

William Fleming and Franklin County each have five new foes.

Meanwhile, there are several other items of note:

  • Reigning West Virginia Class AAA champ Martinsburg comes to Salem on Oct. 18 with a 42-game winning streak.
  • George Wythe and Chilhowie are not playing each other for the first time since 1989.
  • Roanoke Catholic has an eight-game schedule with just three home games.
  • Covington plays five successive road games from Sept. 13 to Oct. 18.
  • Staunton River, which was 0-10 last year, has added Blacksburg, Appomattox County and William Campbell.
  • Glenvar will play at three-time defending Class 1 champion Riverheads on Sept. 6.
  • North Cross opens a week ahead of the rest of Timesland with an Aug. 24 home game against Nansemond-Suffolk.

7. It’s all in the timing

The play clock will be set at 40 seconds instead of 25 this year, following a vote by the National Federation of State High Schools Rules Committee in January.

In most situations, the official will start the 40-second clock immediately after the ball has been declared dead.

Previously, the clock started at 25 seconds once the ball was marked for play and the official had taken his position.

There are several exceptions where the 25-second clock still will be used: prior to a PAT, at the start of a quarter or overtime, following a timeout and after the stoppage of play by the referee for any other reason.

In other new rules:

  • A legal formation is now defined by having “at least” five players on the line of scrimmage with no more than four players in the backfield. Previously, seven players had to be on the line.
  • Tripping a ball carrier below the knees is now illegal.

8. Let’s go to the monitor — soon?

The VHSL is considering the use of video instant replay during playoff games.

The NFHS voted to allow state associations the latitude of determining procedures to use instant replay.

The matter is in the early discussion stage at the VHSL, which has not ruled out the possibility of implementing replay in 2019.

9. Record run

Just two short seasons ago, Staunton River’s Grayson Overstreet set VHSL records for rushing yardage (9,042), touchdowns (142) and total points (944).

Lord Botetourt junior Hunter Rice could be in line to eclipse one of them.

Rice has rushed for 4,221 yards with two seasons remaining. He would have to average 2,411 yards per season to break Overstreet’s mark. Last year Rice ran for 2,323 yards in 14 games.

10. Thirty-one and counting for Celtics

Roanoke Catholic enters the season with a 31-game winning streak.

That’s tied for the eighth longest in the country, according to MaxPreps.

Caledonia (Minn.) has the nation’s longest streak at 54 games.

Robert Anderson has been the high school sports editor of The Roanoke Times since 2001.

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