August 13, 2009
2008 Revisited: Making the playoffs for the first time in school history, the Cox Falcons finished 7-4, falling to Kellam 27-18 in the opening round of the Eastern Region Division 6 playoffs. Cox did with outstanding special teams play, steady defense and an offense that committed the second fewest turnovers in the region and tied for the fewest in the Beach District (13).
2009 Offensive Outlook: Expected to see significant playing time at the quarterback position is senior captain D.J. DiNardo (6-0, 202). As a junior,
DiNardo scored a team-best 56 points, averaged 20 yards per kickoff/punt return and rushed for 388 yards and 7TD's on 6.4 yards per carry. Senior Severin Rucker (5-9, 185), who rushed for 379 yards and 2TD's on 68 attempts, and junior fullback Devaul Peterson (5-11, 190) headline a group of backs for a ground game that is much improved from a couple years ago. QB/TE Troy Ruediger (6-2, 194), WR Robert Thrasher (6-0, 175) and WR Chris Waddell (5-8, 165) are all seniors with lots of experience that'll help create some balance for the offense through the passing game.
The offensive line is "small, but quick and strong," according to Head Coach Bill Stachelski. "The biggest concern right now is depth on the offensive line and finding a way to fill the void left by the departure of kicker Drew Jarrett. Drew was our second leading scorer last year with 48 points, and although we have a good replacement for him in junior Seth Pekoe, (5-11, 170), our offense will have to bear more of that burden to score points." Junior offensive tackle and wrestler Ross Burbank (6-4, 240) and senior guard John Ciavarra (6-1, 205) are two players to keep an eye on up front.
2009 Defensive Outlook: "Like the offense, the defense will be undersized, but very athletic," notes Stachelski, who has one of the top defensive coordinators around in Jimmy DiNardo, the former Head Coach at Princess Anne and farther of the aforementioned DiNardo that made seven interceptions two years ago as a sophomore. One of the unknowns about this defense is how several first-year players, and in particular seven new first-year starters, will adapt. Additionally, senior Darrin Marrow (6-1, 185), coming off a season where he recorded 42 tackles and a team-high four interceptions, moves from cornerback to middle linebacker. Stachelski feels Marrow "should make a huge impact with his physical style of play and ability to run."
Darrious Harris (6-1, 230) is a run-stopping presence from the defensive end position. Burbank and seniors Spencer Norris (6-0, 205) and Austin Logan (6-2, 215) join him along the d-line. Helping Marrow out at the linebacker position will be Peterson at strong outside linebacker and sophomore Jay Brooks (5-8, 180) on the weak outside spot. Another player that'll have an integral role for the next few years is sophomore free safety Kellen Blacksheer (6-1, 180), expected to help out a secondary that includes Thrasher, Waddell and DiNardo, the team's Rover and most dynamic playmaker.
Date to Circle: It's that opener with the Knights of Kellam on August 28th. Cox won the first meeting a year ago 20-10, despite being out-gained 255-203 in that contest. Cox led 18-13 going into the fourth quarter of the playoff game, until Kellam's vaunted rushing attack took over the game and the Knights won 27-18.
Hat's Hit: On the season, the Falcons were outgained by 846 yards last year, yet they were three games above .500 and hosted a game in the first round of the postseason in what was a terrific debut for Stachelski as a Head Coach. They're disciplined, don't make many mistakes and fundamentally sound. In a way they remind me similar to Salem with less athletes across the board. No longer is this program a doormat and one of the weaker squads in the Beach District; they are a playoff contender and plan to stay that way even with the loss of such a valuable kicker like Jarrett (now at the University of Virginia), who paid huge dividends in the field position battle.
"We have a tough start with a rematch from last year's first round playoff game vs. Kellam, and then Green Run and Bayside. If our team can stay focused on doing things right, we should be able to achieve the same level of success that we enjoyed in '08," Stachelski believes.
Matthew Hatfield has covered Eastern Region Basketball & Football since 2004 for VirginiaPreps.com - the #1 High School Sports Site on the Rivals Network. Check out Hatfield's website - http://www.matthewhatfield.com/ - for more on the pro and college sports scene. To contact Matthew, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to listen to him throughout the year on ESPN Radio 1310.