For the Staunton River High School football team, the 2020 football season features a lot of promise. With at least eight starters returning on both offense and defense, the Golden Eagles and their seniors, especially, have their eyes set on some big goals this year.
However, like every other high school in Virginia, the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented all teams from working out together in the spring and practicing during the summer; and like every other high school team, SRHS football had to adjust on the fly.
There have been two seniors specifically for the Golden Eagles that the coaching staff knew they could depend on to get the team to buy in and stay motivated — Quarterback/Linebacker Jacob Kirtley and Tight End/Defensive End Jamelle Jones.
“When all of this happened, I knew that they were two that the staff and I would lean on,” said SRHS Head Football Coach Shaun Leonard.
He also said that Kirtley and Jones are exactly what you look for in your seniors to lead. For Kirtley, Leonard said he is a true role model as a student in the classroom and on the field as a player. Both of those statements are true, as Kirtley currently holds a 3.5 GPA and has been a four-year player on varsity for the Golden Eagles.
“Jacob is our leader by example,” Leonard said. “He’s a special kid to have around.”
For Jones, Leonard said he leads by his work ethic and his determination to get better. An example of this is how Jones, who was an offensive lineman throughout middle school and the first two years of high school, transformed his body after the 2018 season and switched positions to tight end. Leonard credits that to his relentless motor and willingness to put the work in.
“Jamelle is one of the hardest working kids that we have had,” Leonard said. “Coaches will see kids on the field and think, ‘Man they can be something special as long as they put the work in.’ That is something we have never had to worry about with Jamelle.”
Speaking of putting the work in, the two seniors have definitely put their work in this offseason back in spring and this summer. Kirtley’s older brother, Sam Kirtley, who plays football and wrestles at Bluefield College, has given his brother multiple workout plans to keep himself in shape. After he is done with his workout for the day, Kirtley comes up to SRHS to run a mile or two on the track and then does agility drills on the field.
Jones has been working out with his father since schools were shut down from the pandemic. At first, he lifted weights at his house until the gyms opened back up, and he has gone there since. Jones said he’s in the gym five and sometimes six days a week just trying to get stronger and keep himself in shape. He also comes with Kirtley to the football field to do some agility drills.
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