Washington football repopulates after first winning season
There is always talk about football teams reloading, rebuilding and reuniting with the past.
At Washington High, the 2014 season will be played without the 22 seniors that graduated in the spring . . . without head coach Mark Hash who left for an assistant’s position at Jefferson High . . . and without many experienced hands available to first-year coach Daryl Hayes.
The Patriots will have to repopulate.
Among the 2013 seniors that departed were offensive giants Kendell Smith and Colin Gustines, both now practicing as freshmen at Shepherd.
Hayes has coached at Shepherd and was once the head coach at St. James, a private school in nearby Washington County.
Last year the Patriots achieved the school’s first-ever winning season, going 7-3 in the regular season with losses only to Sherando, Handley and perennial state champion Martinsburg.
The West Virginia playoffs saw Washington for the first time. Cabell Midland made the postseason a short one for the Patriots when it took a 35-6 opening round win on its home grounds in Ona.
Washington won five straight regular season games to close out its regular season and qualify for the playoffs.
Hedgesville, another team with a first-year coach, is Washington’s opening-game opponent this Friday at Mumaw Field in Hedgesville. Second-year school Spring Mills is next on the schedule and that game is at Marcus Stadium on September 5.
The other four home games are against Morgantown, Handley, Martinsburg and Hampshire.
One of the most experienced players Hayes will have to begin his career at Washington with is running back R.J. Wilson, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior. Wilson could inherit the tailback slot occupied for so long by Gustines.
Christian Strange could be a two-way starter in the interior line. Just a junior, Strange gives the youthful Patriots some size at 220 pounds.
Two other seniors that could become reliable players are wide receiver-linebacker Kyle Athey (6-foot-2, 185) and center-defensive tackle Garrett Henry (5-foot-10, 240).
Another linemen with some size is junior James Bentley at 6-foot-3, 225-pounds.
With the departure of so many seniors from last year’s playoff team, there are a heavy number positions where competition and the team’s two scrimmage games against Clarke County and Pope John Paul the Great will determine which first-time starters receive the majority of the playing time.
Even the special teams will be full of new faces in 2014 at Washington.
The 2013 team defeated the last four schools on this year’s schedule — Skyline (by a 63-0 count), Musselman, Hampshire (where the Patriots scored 53 points) and arch rival Jefferson.
But in between the start against Hedgesville and Spring Mills and the closing month of games there are heavyweights Sherando, Morgantown, Handley and Martinsburg.
Get out your program . . . because many of the front-line players won’t have names like Gustines and Smith that were multi-year starters for the Patriots.