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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Dual roles for players becoming the norm
SEE ALSO: For more on tonight High School Football games, check on the game capsules.
North Stafford football coach Joe Mangano was very specific last week about his plan to control the workload of tailback Von Purvis, who doubles as a starting linebacker.
Ideally, Mangano said, Purvis would get around 20 carries; anything more than that might be overdoing it.
Even Mangano had to laugh at that this week.
“So much for that 20 carries a game,” he said with a chuckle.
Purvis carried the ball 40 times for 247 yards and three touchdowns in the Wolverines’ 19–7 road win over Briar Woods. North Stafford rode Purvis to an epic victory over a Falcons team that had won 32 straight games.
This week’s high school football power poll, as voted on by The Free Lance–Star sports staff (first-place
votes in parentheses):
Team Record Points 1) North Stafford (7) 4-0 43 2) Massaponax (1) 4-0 36 3) Riverbend 4-0 18 4) Colonial Forge 2-2 17 5) Mountain View 3-1 11
Others receiving votes: Eastern View 10.
Mangano altered his philosophy for at least one game because, with tailback Cedrick Watkins out with an injury and Purvis running with purpose, he knew that’s what his team needed to win.
It’s the same reason Mountain View coach Lou Sorrentino has changed his long-standing view about avoiding starting players on both sides of the ball.
Sorrentino doesn’t like the one-platoon practice and says he never will, but sometimes a coach has to be flexible if he thinks it’ll help his team win.
That’s why, after the Wildcats allowed 345 rushing yards in a season-opening loss at Varina, Sorrentino pressed two of his offensive linemen—seniors Jerel Fayorsey and Mason Madeline—into double duty.
“They’re beat. They’re tired. That concerns me, but I think it’s been a good move,” said Sorrentino, who is also starting star wide receiver Quinton Gray at cornerback. “We’ve won three straight. We’ve become more stout defensively.”
The coaches want to be careful about overtaxing the players, but the players themselves have gladly accepted the extra work.
“It’s fun. I like it. The reward is better than just being tired,” Madeline said. “After coming off a win, it’s refreshing.”
Two-way players have been the key to the success of both North Stafford and Mountain View this season. They’ll be put to the test tonight when the teams square off on the Wolverines’ home field.
North Stafford has nine players who could see double duty tonight. Some, like Purvis and linemen Tom Vuckovich, Garnett Mason and Nathan Williams, who will see significant snaps on both sides.
“We’ve always believed in putting the best players on the field. We’ve been doing this basically since 2011,” said Mangano, who has led the Wolverines to back-to-back appearances in the Group AAA, Division 5 state semifinals. “We learned that if a kid’s your best player, you put him on both sides of the ball.”
Mangano does make some concessions, however. He didn’t want to overwork star player Anthony Shegog last season, so he performed a balancing act throughout the season with Shegog’s playing time at safety and tailback.
He is trying to do the same with Purvis, but it’s been tough to keep the player off the field.
“He yells at me and says, ‘Give me the ball, coach. Give me the ball,’” Mangano said of Purvis, who saw a decrease in defensive snaps last week as a result of his heightened offensive role. “He was basically yelling, ‘Keep it coming coach.’ I was like, ‘OK.’ He’s a very tough kid.”
Sorrentino likes to give Fayorsey and Madeline a few plays off so they can catch their breath, but neither likes to be out for very long.
“I don’t know if there’s a competition between them, but they don’t want to be the one coming out too long,” said Sorrentino, who followed his two-platoon preference in state-championship winning seasons at Culpeper and Hylton.
Some players build their entire football identity around playing every snap. That’s certainly the case with Vuckovich.
“I’m a hybrid now,” Vuckovich said with a laugh.
Sorrentino prefers to start 22 different players for the purposes of building depth and avoiding major injuries. If a two-way player is injured, that means two starting positions are affected.
But the coach can’t deny that playing Fayorsey, Madeline and Gray on defense has led to much better results.
The Wildcats have been much improved against the run since moving those linemen over, and Gray has been just as prolific on defense as he’s been on offense, evidenced by his three-interception game last week against Liberty–Bealeton.
“From that Varina game, getting tough in the second half and these three past games, the whole defensive team has just nailed things down,” Madeline said.
But playing so many snaps takes a physical toll. Purvis missed practice time last week with a minor hamstring injury and he was dealing with turf toe this week.
He expects to play Friday, though he probably won’t see such a heavy workload now that Watkins is healthy.
“He had  carries on a turf toe,” Mangano said. “The trainer has been working with him. She said she’s seen kids in the past who would have shut down with that injury. Not him. When he ran, you didn’t know he had it.”
For two-way linemen, their pain usually comes the next morning.
“Areas I didn’t know I had are aching,” Fayorsey said. “I’m adjusting to it and getting used to it.”
Those aches and pains are minor inconveniences for players who thrive off of playing almost every down every week.
“I like playing football, so I’ll play wherever they need me,” Purvis said. “I’m not really going to complain and say, ‘Coach, I can’t go in. If they need me, they need me.’”
Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442