STAUNTON — If you're talking about high school football in Staunton, it’s a whole new ballgame.
In fact, just about everything is new.
New school name. New mascot. New uniforms. New system and a new head coach.
Jacob Phillips is the new man calling the shots for the Staunton Storm. Phillips comes to Staunton after a four-year run at James River High School in Buchanan. James River posted a 22-20 record during Phillips’ four years as the head coach, including an 8-3 mark a year ago that ended with a loss in the first round of the Region 2C playoffs.
Phillips starred as a quarterback at Bath County High School and then at W&M.
Phillips takes over the program following a successful four-year run under the leadership of Scott Girolmo. Girolmo, now the head coach at Class 6 Battlefield, led the team to a 32-18 record over his four years, including a 6-5 record in 2018 where it lost in the first round of the Region 2B playoffs to Luray.
“We’re just taking things one day at a time, trying to do the best we can each day,” Phillips said. “With everything being new — new coach, new system, young — we’ve slowed down the install a little bit. We want to make sure we have a good foundation in place as we move things forward.”
Not only is the head coach new, a lot of the players are new.
“We’re really young, really inexperienced,” Phillips said. “A lot of these kids haven’t played very much football at the varsity level. It’s definitely a work in progress.
"On offense, you could say we’re still searching for our identity,” he said. “Not searching in the sense of our philosophy on offense, we have that in place. But in the nuances of the offense, we’re still working to fit that with the personnel we have.”
Staunton does return its starting quarterback as Will Dod is back under center after turning in a productive junior season. Dod, a second-team all-Shenandoah District pick in 2018, accounted for 17 touchdowns. He passed for nine TDs and 985 yards, while rushing for 799 yards and eight more scores.
“I think we probably have just two starters returning on offense,” Phillips said. “Will is back at quarterback and Brendan “Bubba” Miller is back on the line. (Nathaniel) Eckert saw some time on the line and (Tajunique) Dobbins and (Desani) Alston both saw some time in the backfield. We’ve got a lot of inexperienced guys who are learning on the fly.”
The story is similar on the defensive side of the football.
“We have maybe four starters returning on defense. Again, a lot of inexperience. A lot of guys got playing time in our first scrimmage, just trying to see who might fit into what role. I thought after we settled down, we played all right on defense. We’re going to be very aggressive on the defensive side.”
Phillips is somewhat familiar with the teams his Storm will line up against in the Shenandoah District.
“Going back to my playing days at Bath County, we played the Augusta County teams a lot,” Phillips said. “I coached at Bath and then at James River, and at both places we played some of these same programs. I guess the only teams on our schedule that I don’t know a lot about are Lynchburg Christian and Turner Ashby. I know our district has some really good programs. We’re looking forward to getting started.”
Staunton opens its season Sept. 6 with a road trip to Class 1 Pioneer District member Covington. The team will make its home debut as the Staunton Storm on Sept. 13 against Class 3 Lynchburg Christian Academy out of the Seminole District in the first meeting between the two schools.