The Staunton River High School football seniors had experienced hardships after their freshman year, which saw them one game away from the state championship. Since then, they’ve faced coaching turmoil and have only won one game in the past two years.
Two seniors, Blake Miller and Colby Green, also have had another issue follow them through their careers – the injury bug.
Neither have been able to play a full season because of injuries. Miller has dealt with concussions and knee problems such as meniscus, MCL and a partial tear of his ACL, which required surgery. The concussion was the sole reason Miller missed one game his junior year against Lord Botetourt, but he was trying to play through it.
“I was expecting to play,” he said. “But Coach Leonard and Coach Smallwood came up to me before the game because they knew something wasn’t right, and they took me out.”
Head coach Shaun Leonard said Miller is one of the toughest and hardest working kids on the team, so it’s no surprise to see him try to play through such injuries. He mentioned that Miller is the type who will play through any injuries if he physically can.
“That’s just the type of kid that Blake is. He’s just a kid that’s going to lay it on the line. But head injuries are a big thing, and we’re never going to play around with those,” he said.
Green on the other hand has had a fractured elbow, dislocated shoulder and a muscle calf strain. Leonard said the injury bug has probably hit Green the hardest. It’s not hard to see why. Green’s injuries have caused him to miss his entire freshman year and multiple games his sophomore and junior year. He noted that Green is someone who they can really use to be a big contributor on both sides of the ball if he can stay healthy.
There will be new positions for both Miller and Green as they enter into their senior year. Miller was originally the starting center for the Golden Eagles, but he dropped 40 pounds in the offseason. His new position will be running back and tight end. As far as what he brings to his new position, Miller thinks his time as an offensive lineman will help him.
“I know the perspective of thinking like an offensive lineman and how they block and create holes. I also have an understanding of the skills positions now. I got knowledge, and knowledge is power,” Miller said.
Leonard said they have been working with him catching the ball in practice, and he struggled at first, but he has put in the work and is catching a lot better now. He also added that Miller has embraced his new position and circles back to his hard work for being able to adjust and continue to get better in his new role.
Green is someone on the offensive side that Leonard is looking forward to using as a wingback and added that he is the best they had at being able to hit their jet sweeps.
“It’s not that he’s extremely fast, but his timing is impeccable,” Leonard said. “It’s almost instantaneous that once the ball gets in the quarterback’s hands, he’s there to get the hand off.”
Last year against William Campbell, which was the first game of the season, Leonard said Green had a productive game but got hurt before halftime. Once he went down, the Golden Eagles weren’t able to run the jet sweeps as effectively as they had with Green.
Now that he is healthy, Green is looking forward to being able to carry the rock one final go around.
“It excites me a lot,” Green said. “I can’t wait to be out there and be a leader on the field.”
For Green, he will remain in his normal position as a running back, but he will be switching it up on the defensive side as he transitions to play cornerback. Originally an outside linebacker, Green said he has gotten quicker and has picked up speed, which will help him make the position switch a little easier for him. Green said he imagines himself being a physical corner and reading the offensive set up to put himself in better and productive situations.
Leonard said Green, as of now, will cover the opposing team’s number one receiver and expects him to really help the Golden Eagles as they look to replace two starting corners from last season.
As far as their plans after high school, both have said this year will be their final year as an athlete. Miller hopes to enroll at either Virginia Tech or the University of Virginia and double major in psychology and business. Green hopes to attend Radford University or Virginia Tech but is undecided on what he wants to pursue.
It’s been one thing after another for the football senior class at SRHS since their near state finals run. In fact, this will be the first time the senior class has had the same head coach for multiple seasons during their high school career. Now, they are waiting to see if they will be able to play their senior year, having to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Simply put, nothing has come easy for them, but both Miller and Green have said there is a silver lining in their senior year.
“It’s a big learning experience. This new challenge has taught me a lot and has made me stronger in new ways,” Miller said.
Green said it’s taught him to never take anything for granted and to make the most out of every situation. He also said that even though it’s been rocky at times, it’s been great playing football for SRHS.
“I’ll be pretty bummed out if we don’t get a senior season, but at the end of the day, it’s been a lot of fun,” Green said.
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