By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
WILLIAMSBURG — The Williamsburg Yellow Jackets come into the 2013 football season as one of the most highly touted teams in the Tri-County – and with good reason.
If not for a 7-0 loss to Hazard in the Region 7 title game, the Yellow Jackets would have found themselves playing in the state semifinals the following week and who knows what could have happened.
This season, Williamsburg returns the bulk of its talent on both sides of the football, but head coach Jerry Herron has beefed up his schedule in an effort to get the team ready for those tough postseason games.
With the expectations as high as they’ve ever been in what the team’s fans call “Big Orange Country” the pressure’s on the Yellow Jackets to take the next step, but Herron said he hopes to have his squad ready when it matters most.
“The kids are really excited because we’ve had some success in the past few years, but at the same time they know they have their work cut out,” Herron said. “These guys know what it takes to get to the region finals because they’ve done it the past two seasons, now we have to be able to take that next step as a program.
“The kids know what it takes to be successful and we’ve had a great offseason in getting ready for this season,” he added. “We want to get the kids fired up and get everybody on the same page so they can go out and get some work done.”
Quarterback Dalton Sizemore returns for his senior campaign with his two main targets from last season, juniors Corey Shelton and Skyler Griffith, in tow. Sizemore’s success will be key as teams to make adjustments to try and slow down the Yellow Jackets’ air attack.
As for the running game, look for the workloads of juniors Patrick Jefferson (81 carries, 499 rushing yards and seven receptions for 43 receiving yards) and Chase Lowrie’s (318 rushing yards and 12 receptions for 121 yards) to increase to help balance the offensive attack.
Herron said he expects teams to come in and try to shutdown his team on offense and said it’s up to his players to make sure they aren’t successful.
“The kids know we’ve made our schedule a little tougher and that some of these teams are going to have the best teams they’ve ever had,” Herron said. “With that said it’s up to the guys on the field to go out and make plays and not allow the adjustments to affect what they’re able to do.
“We have a lot of weapons returning, but we still have to go out and put the work in and execute if we’re going to be as good as we can be,” he added. “The kids realize that nothing is going to be just handed to them and they have to work to get back to that region final game.”
As the team begins practice this week, Herron said even though expectations may be high for his team and the pressure may be on them to succeed, they are still the same group of kids they’ve always been. He said the fact they’ve brought the majority of the players through the program with the same values and expectations is enough to make him believe that keeping the team grounded won’t be a problem.
“I know they expect to be good and they expect to succeed, but they also know they have to put in the work to do those things and the work starts right here and now,” Herron said.