STEPHENS CITY — The Sherando football team's first day of practice on its own campus on Monday featured a familiar sight — Hunter Entsminger on the practice field, twirling a football in his hands.
For the first time in four years though, Entsminger won't be the one slinging a football around the field when the Warriors take the field for its season-opening game.
Things are going to be different for the 2019 Warriors without the graduated Entsminger, who passed for 5,930 yards and 66 touchdowns as the team's starting quarterback over the last three years and earned the Class 4 Northwestern District Player of the Year award each of the last two seasons.
The two-time defending district champions feel like they have a couple of pretty strong options at quarterback to keep them rolling along, though.
Junior Chacai Campbell (5 feet, 11 inches tall, 185 pounds) and sophomore Dylan Rodeffer (6-1, 165) are both competing for playing time at the position during the preseason for Sherando, which went 10-2 last year and opens the regular season at James Wood on Aug. 30. The Warriors — who return four starters on offense and five on defense and have 47 players out for the team — returned to Stephens City on Monday to practice after opening practice on Thursday at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria.
Last year, Campbell backed up Entsminger, who will play baseball at James Madison University next year and watched practice on Monday with some of his other former teammates from last year like lineman Nick Corbit (Lenoir-Rhyne University) and wide receiver Nick Mazza (Christopher Newport).
Campbell saw quarterback action last year as a result of injuries to Entsminger in three games, including the entirety of the Warriors' Region 4C championship loss to eventual Class 4 state champion Woodgrove. Rodeffer was the Warriors' starting quarterback on the JV team last year.
Sherando coach Bill Hall said there's a lot to like about the skills of both players.
Campbell completed 25 of 36 passes for 309 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions and finished second on the team in rushing yards, carrying the ball 40 times for 311 yards (a 7.8 average) and four TDs in 2018.
"[Campbell] has a quick delivery and is really athletic," said Hall of the player who starred as a safety last year, earning second-team all-district honors. "He's physical. He's a good runner. But I think he doesn't want to be known as just a running quarterback. He'll be a vital part of our running game, but that's not all he can do. If you load the box, he has the arm talent to expose you for that. It will be an interesting blend for people and interesting how they defend him."
Rodeffer was brought up to the varsity last year after the JV season was over. He showed he could not only throw the ball deep but also put the proper touch on those deep balls at Monday's practice.
"He's a talented passer, more of a pocket type of a guy," Hall said. "Very cerebral and a huge upside. We're glad to have him now working with the varsity. You see bigger strides in him just because he has more strides to make."
Hall says the players "don't have a choice" when it comes to having a strong work ethic, such are the demands that come with the quarterback position. That being said, he liked what he saw from the duo in the offseason.
"We spent the whole offseason doing hindsight sheets, which is us reviewing through the games and trying to get mentally dialed into things we were doing good and bad to each of our opponents," Hall said. "Those guys started working in the gym the first week of March and coming in Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:30. They've been doing skill development for a long time."
Campbell said he's excited about the opportunity ahead of him. Campbell did plenty right when he played at quarterback — he had five total TDs and was 11-of-11 passing for 196 yards in the first half of a 49-6 win over Fauquier, and he came in for an injured Entsminger in the second half of the Region 4C semifinal game against Kettle Run and converted a huge third-and-6 play with an option run late in the fourth quarter to effectively seal the 16-14 win.
Campbell's final game saw him complete 9 of 16 passes for 86 yards and rush for 107 yards on 17 carries against Woodgrove, but he felt he could have done more in the 27-3 defeat.
"I feel I have a chip on the shoulder," Campbell said. "We didn't execute how we should have. I didn't play as good as I wanted to. That's what it comes to. We didn't play as good as we could have."
When asked to assess his strengths, Campbell started off by saying, "I have areas to improve in everywhere."
Campbell said he worked on a lot on the mental aspect and his footwork. In addition to working with Hall, he went to multiple camps, including a quarterback camp at Liberty University.
Rodeffer said it was a great experience to learn from Entsminger and Campbell when he came up the varsity at the end of last season, and he's taken a similar approach to his game in the offseason.
"Like [Campbell] said, everyone has room to improve," Rodeffer said. "I think I have a great arm, but I can use some work mentally, and on my footwork."
Hall, now in is 17th season, hasn't gone with a two-quarterback system since 2011, but he'd be willing to bring that back if that's the best thing for the team.
"We're just so early, so I'd like to see how things play out," Hall said. "If there's two that are equal, then yeah, we'll be able to do that. We'll see what works out best for us. We don't know what that is yet."
Sherando also needs to figure out a replacement for another three-year starter in the backfield in running back T.J. Washington. Washington ran for 1,312 yards and 15 touchdowns last year and caught 36 passes for 567 yards and five TDs.
As of right now, Hall said there are four players who could see carries — senior Darius Lane (41 carries, 223 yards, 2 TDs), senior Payne Bauer (12 carries, 70 yards, five TDs) and two JV players from last year, sophomore Aydan Willis and junior Jay'lin Polston.
Lane is an all-state track athlete who starred in the hurdles and jumps and can bring power and speed, and the physical Bauer is coming off a season in which he earned first-team all-state honors as a linebacker.
"Aydan has good vision and good feet. He kind of remains me of a Jerome Bettis-type of a back. He's a thicker kid," Hall said. "Jay'lin is more of a scat back."
Though Sherando lost more than half of its starters from last year's team, the Warriors boast an outstanding core.
Bauer has scholarship offers from Division I schools New Hampshire, Virginia Military Institute, Alabama A&M and Georgetown. Senior wide receiver/defensive back Jabril Hayes, a second-team all-district selection, has offers from Saint Francis, New Hampshire and VMI. Junior offensive lineman and all-state selection Keith Gouveia has an offer from Kent State. Junior kicker and all-state selection Jack Hendren earned a 4.5-star rating at the national Kohl's kicking camp.
Another change for Sherando this year is that T.J. Rohrbaugh will not be the team's defensive coordinator for the first time since 2008. In a phone interview, Rohrbaugh said he's taking the season off to focus on his graduate course studies. Jake Smith, a veteran assistant on the Warriors' staff, will move into that role this year. Hall said the team will be running the same schemes as last year.
"He's worked really hard at trying to figure out what are the strengths and weaknesses of our guys are and also the strengths and weaknesses of the fronts that we're running," Hall said. "He's a really good coach, and we're in really good hands there."