In his 23rd season at Matoaca, head coach Pat Manuel is out to prove a point. A point that’s been proven time and time again – that a group of players that have truly come together as a team can win a lot of ballgames.
“We ended last year on a positive note with our victory over Thomas Dale,” explained Manuel. “That really gave the kids a head of steam going into the offseason.”
Despite the loss of offensive leaders – quarterback Blake Bowen and wide out Trevion Armstrong to Trinity Episcopal in Richmond – Manuel still feels he has the weapons to have a productive offense and an overall improved Matoaca squad in 2014.
“We’re playing like a team, and have a group of very unselfish players,” touted Manuel.
Last year, a young Warriors team finished 5-5, good for 10th in the 5A South Region, two spots out of a playoff berth. Christian Chisholm (William & Mary) and Ardel Christian (Trinity International University) provided defensive punch and leadership while Andrew Carroll’s (Randolph-Macon) solid, hard-nosed play led last year’s secondary. Matoaca’s leading rusher Aaron Monts returns along with many contributors with varsity experience.
Matoaca opens the 2014 campaign at home August 28 vs. Manchester.
Quarterback: Junior Aaron Monts will lead the Matoaca offense in 2014, moving over from running back. Manuel holds Monts in high regard due to his unselfishness and the work he’s put in to understand the offense and what they’ll try to do this season. A dual threat who’s dangerous with his legs, Monts rushed for 922 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. As for playing quarterback, he promises to throw the football well, attending camps this summer to work on his skills.
Running back: With Monts moving to quarterback, the door opened for sophomore Shedrick McCall to start in the backfield. A bruising back at 6-2 240 pounds, he received some playing time last year at Meadowbrook with good early results, turning in a 100 yard game against Colonial Heights. Matoaca features many looks on offense and has two big halfbacks in seniors Kordell Burgess and Jordan Bouldin, to go along with two quicker players in Avante Jones and Cade Driskill. “We can be big and strong or quick and speedy back there,” Manuel stated.
Wide Receiver: The feature receiver for the Warriors in 2014 will very likely be tight end Jonathan Manuel, who earned All-Conference 12 second team honors in 2013. At 6 feet 210 pounds with great hands and good blocking skills, the senior offers a well-rounded game. At wide receiver, track athlete Anthony Warner will provide a deep threat with excellent speed.
Offensive Line: Historically, Matoaca develops their offensive lineman well, and has their full starting brigade back. This includes Joe Cheatham, a junior, and behemoth Shaun Helm, the 2013 285-pound class state championship wrestler. Ben Janscics, Patrick Grier and Elijah Rivers round out the experienced group that will give the Matoaca offense a shot at an improved run game.
Defensive Line: Manuel and Cheatham will play defensive end, while Helm will clog the middle against the run. All three should provide a solid pass rush. Helm is one of the biggest and best defensive lineman in the area. “When you have a state championship wrestler at nose tackle, he’s going to cause some problems,” stated [Pat] Manuel.
Linebackers: Senior Jordan Bouldin had 33 tackles and a sack last year, and returns to lead a quick, athletic group. Kordell Burgess along with juniors Xavier Cypress and Micah Cox-Riggin will also be in the rotation. Tyler Voorhees isn’t on your radar yet, but is expected to make noise.
Defensive Backs: Senior Barry White will lead an otherwise young unit that has some position battles in training camp. White is a physical player with good technique and “always seems to be in the right spot” on the field. Raekwon Whitaker figures to start at the other corner, while Sam Shook and Jamison Harrison battle for a starting spot at safety.
Special Teams: While high school teams traditionally look past the field goal unit, this year’s version of the Warriors promises not to leave those points on the field in 2014. Soccer standout Justin Dyke will be the team’s place kicker. Manuel says that Dyke has hit his targets from sub 40 yards in practice consistently and has the leg strength to kick them further.
ONE TO WATCH:
Tyler Voorhees, Sophomore
6’0 185 pounds
Voorhees might just be everything a coach wants in a young defensive player that has the potential to anchor the defense for the next three seasons. Manuel stated that he’s the first one to get to the weight room and the last one to leave.
That work ethic spills over onto the field where he has a solid understanding of the game, knowing where he has to be in the defensive scheme. The sophomore is regarded as a natural by the Matoaca coaching staff.
“You can teach any kid to tackle,” explained Manuel. “But only a few are natural hitters, and he’s that kind of kid.”
With his current skill set and willingness to work, Matoaca could have a young leader on a defensive unit that needs to greatly improve in 2014.