By HARRISON HAMLET
(MARTINSVILLE, Va.) – Last year at this time, fans of local high school football were left wondering. It didn’t matter if those fans hailed from Henry County, Martinsville or Patrick County. Questions lingered for all four of our local programs.
A short 12 months later, those questions were answered. Emphatically.
Let’s start with the coaches.
Brandon Johnson and David Morrison had taken the reins at Bassett and Patrick County, respectively, at the same time. Both teams largely struggled through 2018 after struggling in 2017. Were these two men, both with deep ties to their programs, the right head coach for the future?
Yes. Emphatically yes.
One year later, the duo split Piedmont District Coach of the Year honors, led their teams to .500 records or better in the regular season, and played in the playoffs. Both have instilled a culture of success on and off the field that bodes well for the future.
The Bengals and Cougars have their guys.
Bobby Martin probably didn’t know he was going to be coaching at Martinsville this time last year. He wasn’t hired on until the late spring. He took over a program that struggled to fill out a roster, much less a winning record, in recent seasons.
Martinsville didn’t win a game this year, so you might wonder what is different?
The Bulldogs are playing for each other, and that says more about Martin than any other statement might. His leadership was laid bare in the most difficult of situations, and his team responded.
Martinsville didn’t win a game this year, but the future feels different. The wins are coming, Bulldog fans.
Martinsville has their guy.
Finally, Magna Vista was left wondering if the state championship magic had worn off after a difficult year in 2018. One offseason later, Joe Favero had polished his senior class into a gem that was ready to compete into the playoffs again. And they did.
Magna Vista, in a familiar position, still has their guy.
So, what of the players?
Stars are born in the crucible of the weight room and practice fields in the spring and summer. They shine for four months in the fall.
New stars will emerge, roles will change and names you and I have not heard will explode onto the scene. But, with another offseason to improve or get healthy, football fans can only look forward to the future of Dryus Hairston, Tyler Johnson, Jaricous Hairston, Elijah Stokes, Simeon Walker-Muse, Rashaun Dickerson, Will Sprowl, Carson Merriman and Dae’Shawn Penn.
And that’s only on offense.
It is a good time to be a fan of local football programs. All four feel established, all four are led by brilliant head coaches and stars ready to shine.
That is not a statement I would have felt comfortable making every year of my adult life, but it is a statement I will stand by this time around.
After each team’s season concluded, I asked the coaches the same question about what they are losing in their senior class, what they have in their underclassmen who will take the mantle, and what fans should look forward to.
The answers were predictable, humble and quiet.
But, I cared more about the tone, the sheen of their eyes, the truth between words.
The truth was optimistic. The future is bright, no matter what color you wear on Friday nights in the fall.
Enjoy that optimistic feeling. You have your guy on the sideline. You have stars between the lines. Football in 2020 in our little corner of the world is going to be special. There are no questions to linger, only expectations to fulfill.
Well, except for one question: Are you ready for Week One in 2020?
I sure am.