JAMES CITY – Three years ago, Zack Osgood boarded a bus to Poquoson unaware of the trouncing his first-year team had coming its way.
Warhill High School opened its doors for the first time days earlier with few upperclassmen roaming the halls. The lack of seniors forced Osgood and many other freshmen into the lineup. They Lions were no match for Poquoson’s experience and physical maturity, losing the 2007 season-opener 42-0.
“That was the eye-opener right there,” said Osgood, now a senior receiver.
When Warhill opens its season Sept. 9 against Windsor, Osgood and Co. hope to finally be the ones opening eyes. After winning their first two games in school history last season, the Lions field their first true senior class – 25 players deep.
“At this point, we can’t be satisfied with a losing season,” Osgood said. “At this point, there’s no excuses. We’re not a new school any more. This is the year where it’s got to be the turnaround year. We want respect in the district. We’re tired of being the laughingstock.”
District doormat is a tough label to shake.
It all started in 2007 when freshmen were forced into the varsity limelight. Not surprisingly, the results weren’t pretty for the first-year school. Warhill went 0-10, giving up 45.4 points per game while scoring just 3.9 points per game. The Lions were shut out in six games.
“When you take kids and they are getting beat 50-7 and stuff like that, that wears on you mentally,” said Billy Jarvis, who become Warhill’s coach in 2008. “It’s taken a while to overcome that trauma of the first season that they had.”
Quarterback Shaun Cvengros just wants an injury-free season. As a freshman in 2007, he was constantly under pressure from bigger defensive players.
“They drove me into the ground,” Cvengros said.
Many of Warhill’s 25 seniors bypassed junior varsity as freshmen, jumping straight to the bright lights – and bigger players – of Friday night football.
“There’s a big difference between playing on Friday night as a ninth-grader and playing against seniors,” Jarvis said. “I’ve been around a long time and I’ve only had a couple kids in my whole career that as ninth-graders started. It’s just a total mismatch.”
The Lions ended a 20-game losing streak last September by beating Windsor in their season-opener. While they finished at the bottom of the Bay Rivers District for the third consecutive season, the Lions improved on both sides of the ball – scoring 9.9 points per game while giving up 32.6 ppg.
During last year’s breakthrough season – in which Warhill picked up its first two victories – Jarvis had 41 players on his varsity roster. There weren’t any freshman suiting up on Friday nights for the Lions.
The way Jarvis sees it, only the rarest of talents – a player with the potential to play major-college football – should see varsity playing time as a ninth-grader. That’s the hope with 5-foot-11 receiver Reggie Lipscomb, who is the only freshman on Warhill’s 54-player varsity roster this season.
“Of course everybody’s goal is to win, but one of the steps we have to take before we can start talking about winning is we have to be in a game in the second half,” Jarvis said. “Last year was better, but we want to get more games where we are in the fourth quarter where we have a chance to win.”