A reliable chain crew is valuable to a football program.
Jasper Brooks has helped provide the service to his alma mater Spotsylvania for the past 40 years.
After Courtland opened to become Spotsylvania County’s second high school in 1980, Brooks began his chain gang duties with the Knights.
“I picked up all the guys,” Brooks said. “Only one is with me now. Two of them are dead and the rest retired except Cliff Johnson. He’s still with me.”
Brooks, 82, is still chugging along, as well. He’s no longer active on the sideline like Johnson, but he arranges the crew for each Friday night home game. He also helps line the field for JV and varsity games each week.
“I enjoy the game now because I’ve got a good chain crew,” Brooks said. “They take over and do all the work. All I have to do is watch.”
Brooks has earned his rest.
He’s witnessed several state playoff games and was on the chain crew when the Knights made runs to state championships in 1991, ‘94 and ‘97. One of his more memorable games was in 1994 when the Knights hosted the state title game and defeated Amherst 26–0.
Spotsylvania finished 7–3 that regular season and barely qualified for the region tournament before going on an improbable run.
Brooks stayed faithful to the Knights through some lean years as they won a total of 24 games from 2004–17. They finished 8–5 last season.
“I think we’re going to have a real good ball club this year,” Brooks said. “We’ve got a good coach and the athletic director really cares … [Head coach] Jeremy Jack has turned this program around.”
The Knights have speed and strength across the board as they’ll look to control the clock and keep their youthful defense off the field. Junior Jake Naccarato takes over for the graduated Trevor Croson at quarterback in the Knights’ single-wing attack. When opponents stack the line, Naccarato will look to hit 6-foot-5, 260-pound freshman tight end Mathias Barnwell. Standout backs Ty-Shaun Colbert and DeAnthony Pendleton average 228 pounds and will run behind a line with four starters weighing 290 pounds or more. Starting center Dylan Powers is joined by fellow returning starters Dominick Henneberry at tackle and Kyle Orris at guard.
There are no senior starters on the new 3–3–5 defense. Sophomore C.J. Burton made a few eye-catching plays in a scrimmage against Orange. Orris and Barnare two of four players slated to start both ways. Colbert and Pendleton are dynamic linebackers. Jack hopes the front seven takes some pressure off an inexperienced secondary. Joseph Gonzalez and Davon Banks have the speed to cover receivers, while free safety TyReese Tyler is undersized at 130 pounds, but is quick, smart and fearless.
Corbin Skebo returns at kicker and punter after a steady showing in 2018. Gonzalez, Banks and others lead the return game.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Knights enjoyed their first winning season since 2002 last fall. In Jack’s third season they’re undoubtedly a resurgent program. But is their rise comes as they move up to Class 4. Spotsylvania has the potential to rack up its most wins since its heyday in the 1990s when the program won three state championships. The playoffs could be tough, however, as the Knights enter Region 4B alongside perennial heavyweights Dinwiddie, Eastern View, Louisa and Monacan. “There is no doubt that’s going to be a challenge,” Jack said.
Third season (12-12)
“We were very physical [in our first scrimmage] and I think that’s a direct correlation to the strength gains we’ve made. When you get that strong and you’re able to physically move guys the way we were it gives you a different level of confidence.”