School: John S. Battle
Coach: Dan Strong
2006 record: 2-8, 2-5
Offensive starters back: 8
Defensive starters back: 8
BRISTOL, Va. — Last year, John Battle got plenty of experience being in the lead. The Trojans just didn’t have much luck being in the lead when the game ended.
“In seven of our games last year, we were actually winning,” third-year coach Dan Strong said. “We were always a couple of plays away. We lost to Honaker 18-13. Fumbled going into the end zone for the win, and we didn’t even get hit.
“That’s the type of stuff that happens when you’re losing. You find a way to lose.”
It’s a fairly ingrained habit at the suburban Washington County school, which belonged to the Group AA Highlands District before joining the Group A Hogoheegee in the early 1990s. The Trojans have had only one winning football season since 1970.
The fact that John Battle received four last-place votes in the five-team Clinch Mountain District preseason poll is in keeping with a tradition that Strong is more than ready to end.
The Trojans will definitely be better in 2007, he said.
One superlative carrying into the 2007 campaign is quarterback Cody Calloway, who led the Hogoheegee in passing last season with 1,724 yards and 12 scoring strikes, also rushing for 400 yards and five touchdowns.
The Trojans also return all-region receiver Joe Cadle and multifaceted skill player J.J. Jones at the “Z” wide receiver with Josh Osborne showing up as either a tailback or H-back, depending on the set.
While Battle is primarily a spread team, Strong also wants to run the football effectively out of the 13 formations that comprise his multiple offense.
“We try to mix it up a bit. Tons of motion,” Strong said. “We even put more motion this year out of every formation to try to mix a few people up.
“We’re going to try to throw the football a little faster and roll out a bit more.”
Returning senior offensive linemen Joey Lewis (at center) and Josh Hoss will lead a unit that will get help from Luke Denton, Alex Stanley and Lee Sherfey.
“Those guys, I always tell them, if the offensive line doesn’t go, we don’t go,” Strong said.
The Trojans will continue to base their defense out of the 40 with a smattering of odd fronts.
Hoss returns to the defensive interior line with Stanley and Lewis at the ends. Returning linebackers include Cadle and Jeffery Scott at inside linebacker. Mike Johnson and freshman Jeremiah Denton are penciled in as the outside linebackers. Osborne and Dingus will return at the corners with Jeffery Dingus at safety.
With a roster only 30 deep, the Trojan staff has placed extra emphasis on conditioning. Staying injury-free will be one key to Battle staying in the game.
But Strong knows his players ultimately have to want to stay in the game.
“No one seems to get tired when you’re winning. We’re going to try to be winning, or at least in the ballgame,” Strong said. “Kids hang their heads when they’re behind. That’s when they want to come out of the ballgame. And we’re not going to be able to afford it.”