Prep football: Hurricane sees increase in numbers
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The most successful basketball season in Hurricane High School history could pay unintentional dividends for the Redskins football program.
Hurricane reached the Class AAA State Tournament for the first time in its existence in March. Coach Lance Sutherland's team reached the Charleston Civic Center without a football-playing Redskin on the roster.
That break from competitive action gave Jeremy Taylor's football players time to devote to weight training or, in some cases, wrestling.
Entering his second year as the Redskins' coach, Taylor said this week that the time off during the winter might have had a hand in the increase in the number of student-athletes playing football.
"We've got 105 out, which is a lot for us, a lot for anybody," Taylor said Wednesday during Marshall's two-day 7-on-7 showcase at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Redskins won the 7-on-7 tournament championship in Huntington for the second year in a row.
"We're a growing school and a growing community, so I guess it's to be expected, but we've got some basketball players going out for football now too," Taylor said.
Rising junior Brandon Ford, a 5-foot-10 reserve guard on the Redskins' basketball team, is in football camp during the three-week out-of-season coaching period.
Taylor said the team will continue to visit - and host - 7-on-7 tournaments throughout the three-week period in order to get practice time for as many players as possible.
They'll join numerous other Kanawha Valley teams at West Virginia University for the Mountaineers' 7-on-7 tournament this weekend.
While Taylor attempts to give everyone a look during the preseason, some positions are understandably set in stone.
Senior Austin Hensley begins his third season as Hurricane's starting quarterback after leading all Class AAA underclassmen in passing yards in 2012. Hensley completed 170-of-285 passes for 2,200 yards, 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions a year ago, when Hurricane finished 6-5 and lost to George Washington in the first round of the playoffs.
Hensley threw for 1,108 yards as a sophomore under former coach Willis May.
"He's got a cannon for an arm. He still does," Taylor said. "Obviously, when Austin's here, he'll be our quarterback, but I don't want him changing his schedule and everything to get to a 7-on-7 when he's doing other things."
Hensley, also a standout on the Hurricane baseball team, spends much of the summer attending showcases for that sport, which many consider his likely sport of choice for collegiate purposes.
Taylor said that when he is absent from spring workouts, junior backup quarterback Dylan Tinsley will direct the offense.
Senior utility back Zach Pate also returns to the lineup and will serve as one of Hurricane's primary offensive weapons through the summer and fall. Pate ran for 700 yards and caught 51 passes for 644 yards a year ago.
The team's second-leading rusher in 2012, Steven Handley, must be granted a waiver in order to play his senior season, Taylor said.
"He's 19, so we've appealed to get him another year to play," Taylor said. "It's a complicated rule. If you turn 19 August 9th you can play but if you turn 19 in the summer it's somehow a big deal.
"I get it: they don't want 19-year-olds playing against 14-year-olds, and that makes sense. But if you're 14 and are big enough to be playing in a varsity game I don't know if it really matters."
The Redskins have traditionally opened the regular season against Winfield and closed it against Cabell Midland. Neither rival is in its traditional schedule slot in 2013. Hurricane will open the season on Aug. 30 at home against Huntington.
The Redskins' final game, on Nov. 8, will be at Spring Valley.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.