Skill kids and more skill kids. The Pioneers (7-4 overall, 4-0 in Cedar Run District in 2018) have them in abundance for first-year head coach Sean Finnerty.
Patriot returns a first-team all-Cedar Run District running back in senior Jacob Carter, a first-team all-district wide receiver in senior Tyler Settle and junior all-around athlete Jalen Stroman at wide receiver. All three have offers: Carter (West Liberty), Settle (Slippery Rock, West Liberty and Alderson Broaddus) and Stroman (Virginia, Virginia Tech and Kent State). Settle was the team’s second-leading receiver with 35 receptions for a county-high 723 yards and six touchdowns.
Stroman and Carter each scored 48 points last season.
At quarterback, junior Cody Rogers steps in at starter after backing up the graduated Chris Sonnenberg the last two seasons. Rogers has an offer from William & Mary.
Then there’s the arrival of senior transfer Tim Baldwin at running back. Baldwin, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher at Broad Run and a second-team all-Class 5 state selection in 2018, has 15 offers. He decommitted from Michigan last November. Baldwin is rated the No. 16 player in Virginia by Rivals for the class of 2020.
Another new arrival is sophomore Bryce Jackson. A VISAA Division 1 second-team all-state defensive back last season who transferred from O’Connell. Jackson will be used primarily at safety this season, but can play in the slot.
Jackson will start in the secondary along with Carter and Stroman. The brother of Washington Redskin Greg Stroman, Jalen is a multi-purpose threat. He was a first-team all-district defensive back, a second-team all-district punter and punt returner in 2018.
The big question for the three-time defending district champions is upfront. Senior Tyler Negron and senior center Justin Peterson are the only returning starters on the offensive line. Negron, who has 19 offers, will start at left guard.
Junior Chandler Brown (left tackle), Senior Matt Bruhn (right guard) and sophomore Sage Hensely (right tackle) are the other starters upfront. Brown and Bruhn played junior varsity last season and Hensely was on the freshman team.
On defense, linebacker Joey Lacey (first-team all-district) and Negron (end) are the other returning starters besides Stroman and Carter.
Finnerty replaces Brud Bicknell, Patriot’s first head coach when the school opened in 2011. Before stepping down, Bicknell went 47-30 and led the Pioneers to five playoff appearances in seven varsity seasons.
Finnerty came over from Liberty-Bealeton, where he went 50-31 and reached the playoffs five times in seven seasons, including the 2014 Class 4 state semifinals.