HHS Senior Playmaker Expected To Return In October
HARRISONBURG – On Tuesday, during an indoor practice in full gear, Jordan Dove was basically treated like a red-vested quarterback. There was one simple rule, which was repeated several times by the Harrisonburg High School coaching staff: Don’t hit him.
HHS football coach Chris Thurman wanted to run the ball more this season anyway. But now more than ever, junior tailback Devin Medley and the Blue Streaks’ inexperienced linemen will have to carry even more of the offensive weight, at least in the early portion of the upcoming 2014 season.
Dove, a senior who totaled 909 yards of offense and nine touchdowns as a slot receiver and running back last fall, is expected to miss at least four games while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
Dove was the second-leading scorer for HHS in 2013, behind only Medley (10 TDs).
“As a coaching staff, we have to be very smart how we approach the beginning part of the season,” Thurman said. “… We’ve got to do a good job of running the ball, keeping the opposing offense off the field as much as we can, and stay the course, you know? If we can do that and be smart about how we approach it, we’ll be in every ball game.”
HHS plays Waynesboro on Oct. 3 in its second home game of the season. Dove might be back in time for that contest, but he will likely miss the season opener at HHS versus E.C. Glass on Aug. 29 and road games against Handley, Liberty-Bedford and Fort Defiance.
The Blue Streaks have other capable playmakers to help out, including wide receivers Isaiah Hartzler and Abner Johnson. Thurman said Hartzler, who came on strong toward the end of last season, is one of the tallest and fastest receivers on the team. HHS has been grooming Johnson to a be a two-way starter at wideout and safety, after he initially began the season in the quarterback mix with freshman A.C. White and junior Tucker Wyatt.
HHS quarterbacks coach Joe Carico said he expects to name a starting quarterback next week, following Friday’s home scrimmage against Fluvanna County and Waynesboro.
Thurman believes his spread offense will grow as the season goes on and becomes more balanced as the new quarterback settles in. What will Dove’s role be when he returns in October?
“Looking down the road that far, it’s hard to say,” Thurman said. “But that’s when you start talking about opening up the offense and you’ve got a kid whose legs aren’t dead. He’s got fresh legs coming back. He’s going to be a big part, I think, of expanding the offense. He will probably help us on defense as well [at cornerback].”
Medley, for one, isn’t too worried about missing a step in Dove’s absence. That’s because the offensive line has shown improvement, looking more agile with better footwork.
“I think that our line has a lot more movement this year,” Medley said. “Last year, we were kind of slow. But this year, I think we’ll be able to move the ball a lot more.”
The improved unit still needs work. However, that’s to be expected. Junior Eli Whitelow, who is moving from left guard to left tackle, is the only returning offensive lineman for HHS.
“Defense up front looks pretty good,” Thurman said. “They’re wearing us out up front right now. We’re still trying to get our stuff together on the offensive line, which I’m still happy with our offensive line. But our defense up front looks pretty good.”
HHS two-way lineman Tanner Grogg said Dove told him he felt 100 percent, but was following doctor’s orders in letting the shoulder fully heal.
Dove got a few reps in at tailback during a non-tackling defensive drill Tuesday and appeared eager to play. Maybe a little too eager. On one play, Dove came rolling out of the backfield and delivered a strong block into the pads of a defender.
Evidence, perhaps, that he’s feeling well and will be anxious to get back on the field for the Streaks.