GARRISONVILLE — Any advantage is a good advantage in the world of high school sports.
On Monday, North Stafford High School’s football team got a jump-start on the rest of the Group AAA Commonwealth District by beginning practice at little after the sun came up.
The reason is the Wolverines are the only team opening their season on the month of August, with a home date against Chancellor on Aug. 29. And the Virginia High School League allows just 20 days of practice time prior to your first game. The Wolverines are the only team in Stafford County to begin practice on Monday.
This is the third straight year that North Stafford has started a week ahead of its district opponents and third-year coach Eric Cooke and his staff have taken a liking to it.
“I kind of like it,” Cooke said. “It gives you a little bit a jump on everyone else. But what I really like is after the third week, we have a bye, and that allows us to kind of heal from an injuries and reassess where we are as team and if we have to make any adjustments.”
Cooke’s staff includes holdovers Craig Welker, John Phillips, Ryan Kennan and Mike Metikosh while two newcomers join the staff in Brad Wight and Doug Werner.
The strength in the Wolverines will rely in eight players. Those eight including Patrick Slebonic and Tony North are all raising juniors but have two years of varsity experience under their belt.
Slebonic, a 6-5, 280-pound junior, was first team all district last season while North, at 6-4, 300, was a second team selection.
Also, expected to show promise is Don Brookins at quarterback and a trio of receivers in Furnace Barnes, Kelvin Lloyd and Keondric Reynolds. Lloyd is a senior while Barnes and Reynolds are both juniors.
According to Cooke, the team will have some new looks but will make some noise if experience comes to the forefront.
“I feel going into the season Stafford and Colonial Forge will be two teams you will have to beat so we will be a little bit of a dark horse. But I like that roll because we will have to prove ourselves on the field that we belong with the top pack.
“I’m very pleased with the way our off-season went and I think the players are coming into the season ready. Plus, with the amount of varsity experience some of these guys have I think they are starting to smell what it takes to be a winner.”
The Wolverines, who spilt their on-field practice time between the early morning and lat e afternoon, saw temperatures reach no higher than 88 degrees and a wet-bulb index of 76 in the afternoon.
The wet-bulb index, which measures the temperature with the humidity, is used by schools to determine whether practice needs to be brought inside for the athletes’ safety.