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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Wildcats will rely on skill demons
When Mountain View football coach Lou Sorrentino thought about the upcoming season, he took a lot of comfort—his “security blanket,” he called it—in the Wildcats’ trio of skill players set to take the field.
In quarterback Elijah Burress, receiver Quinton Gray and running back Gordon Collins, Sorrentino has three of the area’s top statistical leaders from last fall ready to carry his offense in 2013.
“And not guys you think can do it, or hope can do it,” Sorrentino said. “These are guys who can do it, guys that are proven.”
The preseason hasn’t quite gone as Mountain View hoped. Burress had an appendectomy earlier this month and Gray has been nursing an injured knee.
But Gray should play in Thursday’s opener against Varina, and Burress is expected back soon. When those two join the bruising Collins, the Wildcats should be primed for a big offensive season.
For that, Mountain View is the No. 4 team in The Free Lance-Star’s preseason power poll.
“We have eight returning starters,” Gordon said. “We know the offense. We just have to execute in game situations.”
The senior running back was fifth in the Fredericksburg area in rushing last year, with 1,042 yards and 13 touchdowns. Gray—playing No. 2 receiver to then-senior DeSean Hamilton—caught 42 passes for 628 yards. And Burress flourished, distributing the ball to all his weapons.
Sorrentino hopes for more this fall, especially with the work Gray and Collins have done to establish themselves as team leaders.
“That’s been the biggest change for them: the expectation of leadership,” the coach said. “These guys have been great for our program. They’ve led by example. They’ve certainly put the work in.”
For Collins, that’s meant improving his physical preparations.
“I feel like I’ve gotten faster, bigger, stronger,” he said. “And I’ve improved my ball handling skills.”
Gray isn’t surprised with the work his teammate has put in.
“Gordon has always been a guy who steps his game up in every practice; I know he has this year,” Gray said. “When he knows he has a certain goal, he’s not going to settle for less.”
Sorrentino thinks Collins’ best improvements have come not with a physical change, but just maturity and a better understanding of the game and his role.
“He’s better at understanding that it’s more than just rock ’em, sock ’em,” Sorrentino said. “The other parts of the game, the finesse parts and understanding all that? He’s really starting to get it. Gordon really is a throwback—just tough guys that play the game hard.”
And the coach is quick to give Gray most of the credit for the improvements the receiver has shown.
“He’s not as big and as fast as some other guys,” Sorrentino said. “But he’s a great route runner. He catches the ball well. He already knew a lot of that when he got here. But I’ve been impressed with his work ethic and how he’s honed those skills.”
It’s quite a change from last fall, when Burress was a first-year starter, and Collins and Gray were really trying to establish themselves.
The trio has done it before; now they just need to get healthy and play football, Sorrentino said.
“I feel like we’re all more confident,” Collins said. “We’re more relaxed on the field, because of what we’ve already done. It’s not ‘everyone’s new.’ We’re working hard and we’re ready to go.”
Justin Rice: 540/368-5045