Dukes look to build on football success after playoff year

by Peter J. Teagle - Posted on Aug 22, 2018 - 03:58 PM

{image_2} At Gloucester High School, the boys of fall are back in action.

Following a 2017 campaign that saw the Dukes go 5-5 in the regular season and earn their first playoff berth since the Reagan administration, there is a renewed sense of optimism and vigor surrounding the program.

Head coach John Scalf is looking to build off this previous success but made it clear he and the team are not satisfied being a .500 squad.

“Last year we were 5-5, which to me is still an average season,” he said, “and we don’t want to be average.”

From an unairconditioned cinder-block office next to the locker room, Scalf and his staff prepare for the regular season. Playsheets and equipment occupy much of the table space. A depth chart blocked off with tape adorns the wall nearest the door.

“We are looking to set a standard,” Scalf said. “We want to boost these kids; we don’t try to demoralize them or break them down.”

“This team is a family,” he added.

For the Dukes coaching staff, developing the player also means developing the person.

“This is a program, this not just a seasonal thing,” said Scalf, “We stay on the kids about their grades, their workouts, and the parents see where we’re coming from.”

Scalf takes pride in being a role model for his players. The coaches and players go on frequent teambuilding outings. Bowling, paintball, cornhole tournaments, a lock-in, and playing Fortnite and Madden as a group are all part of Scalf’s goal of creating a winning team culture where players and coaches have a positive relationship outside of the white lines.

After two-a-days, or “10 Days of Hell” as the Dukes call it, he hosted a cookout as well as a mother/son brunch to further the bond of this football family.

Scalf’s mantra has resonated with players, as 98 boys and young men will suit up for the JV and varsity teams this year. This depth is a strength, said Scalf, as the team looks to spread the ball around offensively.

Last year the Dukes could rely on the dynamic Isaiah Spencer to orchestrate the offense, but with him now suiting up for the ODU Monarchs, the game plan will need to be adapted.

This season will see backs, receivers and tight ends all “carry an equal part of the load as opposed to relying on one player.”

The Dukes are not without stars this year, however, as senior running back Joren Brown, junior quarterback Isaiah Lester, and senior tight end/linebacker Joe Conroy look to have big seasons.

Brown came out strong against Green Run in the team’s first scrimmage, breaking a 50-yard run and collecting multiple scores. “I think he’s gonna have a great year,” Scalf said.

Brown looks to be an important cog in the Dukes modified Wing-T offense. The offense heavily uses misdirection and option run plays while working in play action passes and quarterback bootlegs to mislead the defense.

“It’s a ball-control offense,” said Scalf, and “we’re gonna run it at you.”