By Joe Short Matoaca High School didn’t have an ideal season in their 2018 campaign. The Warriors finished 3-7. Three of those victories came... Football: Warriors getting ready to battle
Head coach Jay Parker running through drills with his players. (Kameron Childress photo)

By Joe Short
Matoaca High School didn’t have an ideal season in their 2018 campaign. The Warriors finished 3-7. Three of those victories came in the final four contests, and there was a more positive vibe coming from the Matoaca locker room at the end of the year.

Notable leadership departures have impacted the team. However, there is no shortage of talent. With a few new additions to the squad as well as the coaching staff, Matoaca looks to take advantage of momentum gained last year.

Some key returning players include: quarterback Marcus Dreher, wide receiver Gage Simmons and linebacker Jaron Howard.

“We got better as the year went on, which was the first goal,” coach Jay Parker said. “The goal this year is to start fast, to start on the right foot.”

“Guys like Jonathan ‘Deuce’ Coleman [East Carolina] and Gage Luck [Hampden-Sydney] were great kids in the building and positive role models,” Parker said.

The second-year coach looks to build on the positive examples provided by the alumni.

Quarterback
Dreher is the “QB1,” Parker said. Matoaca leaned on him all last season. Parker has the confidence that he will continue to improve. The signal-caller is a dual threat and a “well-rounded athlete” who can score with both his arm and legs. A multi-sport athlete, Dreher also plays baseball and basketball. 

Running Back
Senior Brenden Gray (5-7, 160 pounds) leads the group. Sophomores Daquan Vann and Cameron Johnson (6-2, 200) are looking to contribute. Senior Jimmy Hayden (6-0, 210) will looks to help. While this is a relatively inexperienced group, it could end up being a deep one. Parker pointed out that his backs “haven’t seen a lot of action at the running back position,” but all have their strong points.

Wide Receiver
All returning players, the group is led by junior Jacob Coleman (6-3, 210), who has drawn a lot of attention on the recruiting trail. Simmons (5-9, 165), Troy Lewis (6-2, 190), Shaun Kindred (6-2, 190), and Jordan Robinson (5-10, 150) will also contribute to what Parker called a “deep” and “talented receiver group.”

Offensive Line
Brayden Spade (6-2, 230) leads the offensive line. Jeremiah Brown (5-8, 250) is one of the shorter linemen on the team, but pound-for-pound makes it count. Akhari Haggard (6-3, 263) will play tackle. Demeco Mason (5-10, 227) will line up at guard. Julian Flood will also play interior offensive line. 

Defensive Line
Brayden Spade (6-2, 230) will play both ways and Nathaniel Dozier (6-2, 245) will battle alongside him in the trenches, looking to pressure the quarterback and stop the run. Both will look to have breakout senior years, perhaps drawing the attention of college recruiters. Alongside them are Jeremiah Brown (5-8, 250), Akhari Haggard (6-3, 262), Ben White and Corey Baugh.  

Linebackers
Jimmy Hayden (6-0, 210) is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, excelling both as a tackler and in pass coverage. Juleon Pointer (6-1, 190) is a physical, aggressive linebacker that will look to make plays. Outside linebacker Jaron Howard is “like a torpedo in the hole,” Parker says. He’ll look to use that good speed to explode on opposing quarterbacks in the backfield this season. 

Defensive Back
Simmons, a 2018 All 5B Region player, will start at corner. Jordan Robinson (5-10, 160) does it all for the Warriors, according to Parker, working both sides of the ball. Troy Lewis (6-2, 190) is a long, rangy corner who can help the team out with his playmaking ability. Brendan Gray (5-8, 160) is a smaller player, but will provide depth. Shaun Kindred (6-2, 190) is a converted basketball player who is extremely athletic and provides size to the defense. His vertical leaping ability could be a bug-a-boo to opposing receivers. 

Special Teams
Junior Aidan Redmon will be the punter and kicker.

Looking Ahead
Parker said that the team needs to “stay organized and focused on the next task.” 

“Everyone talks about playoffs, playoffs, playoffs, which is great,” explained Parker. “That’s a goal, but you can’t get to the playoffs without playing week one, week two, week three. You have to keep your guys focused on what’s ahead, but not too far ahead.”