CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A strong finish to 2016 has provided George Washington a nice momentum boost heading into the new high school football season which will begin later this month.
The Patriots finished 8-4 overall last year, but won six straight games to end the regular season (including a 34-18 victory over Capital), eliminated defending state champion Wheeling Park in the playoffs and limited Martinsburg to its fewest points in postseason play (34).
“We had a pretty good season last year and fought through a lot of adversity,” said George Washington coach Steve Edwards, Jr. “We started off slow, finished pretty strong and then went into the buzzsaw like everyone did with Martinsburg.
“But I felt like our scheduled prepared us enough to handle it – and it’s really tough again this year,” he continued. “We have a lot of work to do, replacing some new bodies and some new people.”
The Patriots lost eight guys who played significant minutes, including four from the line. But it’s junior quarterback Grant Wells leading the way of the returning players, having established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the state with Division I offers from Marshall and Charlotte.
“It’s a big help to have your quarterback back,” Edwards, Jr. said. “We’re trying work some pieces around him. He’s worked really hard and is progressing well. If we can keep him healthy and he keeps working and stays focused, the sky is the limit for him. It’s good to have a guy like that to build around.”
Wells accounted for 35 touchdowns a season ago as just a sophomore, throwing for 2,267 yards and running for another 502 yards.
“We’re working on some leadership stuff with him and on some of the little things,” Edwards, Jr. said. “He throws the ball really strong and we’re working on his strength a little bit. We’ve focused on his getting his physical conditioning up, because he’s going to have to do a little bit more than he has in the past – both mentally and physically.”
Dakota Cosby and Tanner Williams will give the Patriots a strong combination at linebacker, while D’onte Johnson (OL/DL), Buffalo transfer Owen Tillis (LB/DL), Aidan Johnson (RB), Jonathan McClung (RB), Ryan Thomas (WR/DB) and Anthony Phillips (DB/RB) are some of the other standouts Edwards, Jr. expects to lean upon.
“We’ve got some pieces,” Edwards, Jr. said. “We just don’t have a whole lot of pieces. We’re going to have to replace some guys up front and there are some unknowns still.”
The Patriots will open up the season with a gauntlet that includes South Charleston, Paul Blazer (KY), Huntington and Spring Valley.
It’s the same opening four game stretch that saw George Washington go just 1-3 against in 2016.
“We could be 1-4 or 0-5 in our first five games and still be a pretty good football team,” Edwards, Jr. said. “But that’s the way it is, that’s the way it rolls out and we’ll see what happens. That’s why we put them through a few hard weeks of preseason practice. We’re just trying to get better like everyone else.”
2017 Football Schedule
|1||08/24/17||7:30PM||A –||SOUTH CHARLESTON||–|
|2||09/01/17||7:30PM||A –||ASHLAND BLAZER, KY H.S.||–|
|4||09/15/17||7:30PM||A –||SPRING VALLEY||–|
|6||09/29/17||7:30PM||H –||WOODROW WILSON||–|
|7||10/06/17||7:30PM||H –||ST. ALBANS HIGH SCHOOL||–|
|11||11/03/17||7:30PM||H –||CAPITAL HIGH SCHOOL||–|
|wins: 0 lost: 0 ties: 0|