In some respects, Winfield’s offense looks powerful for the coming season — the Generals return their starting quarterback, a 1,000-yard rusher and a polished receiver.
The rub, however, comes along the offensive line, where just one full-time starter returns. The rebuilding of the front wall could go a long way toward determining what kind of season the Generals have.
“We hope we don’t have to wait too long,’’ coach Craig Snyder said of his team’s work-in-progress line. “We’ll have three new starters, and that’s what our focus is. That’s what we’re working for. That’s why we need pads on and need contact to sort it out.
“We probably have eight, 10 kids we really need to look at to see if they can play on Fridays. It comes down to how they practice, and how tough they are. We value tempo and being in shape for our offensive line, and not just being big.’’
Winfield is certainly stocked at the skill positions with senior quarterback Nick Vance, junior running back John Covert and senior wideout Hunter Morris.
Vance, a converted slotback, came on strong at the end of last year after battling the after-effects of a broken ankle suffered midway through the 2017 season. He threw for a school-record 525 yards with three touchdown passes in the Generals’ final game against Mingo Central and finished the season with 1,161 yards passing and 544 rushing despite missing two full games.
“Nick’s not a typical dropback kid,’’ Snyder said. “He’s always been an athlete, and is kind of our wild card. But that game, he just sat back there and I felt like he was completely healthy and saw things. He could be really, really good. Obviously, if he has a good season, it makes us better because he’ll complement John. If he’s back to where he used to be, we think we’ll be pretty good.’’
Covert, at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, is a large running back, especially for Class AA. Often operating out of Winfield’s power Ram formation, he ran for 1,184 yards and 16 touchdowns even though he, too, missed about two full games on offense with injuries. He’s just as valuable on defense, leading the team in tackles as a freshman and sophomore from his linebacking position.
“He’s just a reliable runner and a tough kid,’’ Snyder said. “He was sort of unheralded [as a freshman] because he had to go through the rite of [passage] as the sniffer in our single-wing offense, which basically makes him a blocker. Then last year he was our leading rusher.’’
Morris was the team’s No. 1 receiver last year, catching 36 passes for 567 yards and three touchdowns, and that’s with the Generals disdaining the pass in their two games that Vance sat out with a bum ankle.
“He plays baseball, basketball, football,’’ Snyder said of Morris. “He’s our man of all seasons. He’s just a baller. He’s not flashy or super fast. Just a tough kid, and we really like him a lot. He’s easy to coach.’’
Junior Carson Crouch and sophomore Malakai Woodward figure to get some touches in the Generals offense in either running or receiving positions.
The big mystery remains the offensive line, where senior Kadin Jarrouj (6-1, 245) is the lone full-time starter returning, and he moves from guard to tackle. Another senior, Devin Childers (6-0, 200), started some games at guard. Jarrouj also played defensive end and serves as the team’s punter and place-kicker.
“He brings a lot to the table,’’ Snyder said of Jarrouj. “He’s a pretty versatile kid, and definitely a leader up front. We lost a lot of talent on the offensive line, including a first-team All-Stater in Jacob Huff.’’
Seniors getting looks on the O-line include Logan Steenburgh (6-3, 270) and Jak Kuhl (6-0, 230), who both played some on the defensive line last year, and Josh Watson (5-11, 215).
“After that, it’s just a mix of juniors, sophomores and freshmen,’’ Snyder said. “I honestly won’t know until our two scrimmages, which become really important for us, especially up front.’’
Depth may also be a sticking point for the Generals, as just 42 players from grades 9 through 12 turned out.
“It’s the smallest team I’ve had,’’ said Snyder, who begins his eighth season. “But we like what we have. More is not always better.
“We’re just trying to figure ourselves out a little bit. If we’re not good in the spread, we’re not going to spread. It’s not so unique any more, but we like it. It saved us last year. We get in the single wing and you don’t really need a quarterback. Our style of play doesn’t demand us having an amazing quarterback if we don’t have one available [due to injury, etc.].’’