School & sports news for Sept. 5

Future-driven J.P. football

Though they may currently (and no doubt temporarily) be winless, the future is looking bright for the Junior Panther football program at Rappahannock County High School. The team currently sports 23 eager players and even one female player, eighth-grader and starting wide receiver Brooklyn Phillips — a first for any team in Rappahannock football history.

The Junior Panther team runs through offensive drills in practice. Photo by Matt Wingfield.
The Junior Panther team runs through offensive drills in practice. Photo by Matt Wingfield.

“She’ll hit anybody on our team,” says assistant coach Jeff Nicodemus with a laugh. “She’s got a heart the size of Texas.”

This year’s team is a return to form for RCHS; although it fielded a J.P. football team last fall, Nicodemus admits there was a “two- or three-year period” when the varsity Panthers were the only football team at the school. This year’s team saw an average number of players sign up. “We usually average between 20 and 25 kids per year,” said Nicodemus, “but we’d like to have a roster of at least 30.”

Both Nicodemus and head coach Dave Whorton have plans to grow the team for next year — not only making the J.P. team better, but giving the varsity a more experienced starting core. Nicodemus and Whorton plan to hold a flag football league in the spring for fifth- through seventh-graders to grow the middle school’s interest in football and get more players to sign up for next year’s squad.

Flag football, Nicodemus suggested, is a perfect introduction to the sport, for players and parents. “A lot of parents are worried about their kids playing football,” Nicodemus said. “We’re going to run the exact same offense we’re running here . . . The kids will understand football a little better, and the parents will understand we’re not going to let them get hurt.”

That resurgent interest, Nicodemus suggested, will also help the varsity team in the long run. “Next year they’re going to have 30 kids suiting up who’ve played football for at least three years. They’re going to be something really special.”

— Matt Wingfield

The AD’s Report

Victories and positive signs abounded last week in Rappahannock County schools’ fall sports.

Last Wednesday (Aug. 28), the varsity cross country team traveled to Luray for a dual meet and ran the Bulldogs into the ground. On the boys side, Gavin Jenkins finished first, Amrit Tamang second and Evan Hitt fourth; on the girls side, Julia Wood took top place with Emily Allen running third. Those top finishes plus a strong team showing led to resounding team victories for boys and girls cross country in their season opener. Varsity travels to Eastern View this week, also the site of a Junior Panther meet, where they hope to continue their winning ways.

In volleyball, our varsity girls’ team bounced back from a tough season opening loss to George Mason with dominating wins in Clarke County at Clarke and then Fresta Valley and Manassas Park at home, winning all three matches in three straight games and earning an early 2-1 Bull Run District record. The JV volleyballers continue their undefeated ways, racking up wins against the same three opponents. JV’s highlight was a thrilling road win at Clarke where they dropped the first match, dominated the second one and then battled Clarke to a thrilling 19-17 third match win.

Junior Panther girls opened their Valley Middle School Conference (VMSC) season with a solid win over Fresta Valley at home, and followed that up with another conference win Tuesday at Shenandoah Valley Christian, staking an early claim to first place in the VMSC standings. Also Tuesday at Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy, our young J.P. boys’ soccer team took the field, playing valiantly but falling to the older SVCA group. This Friday (Sept. 6), the soccer team will have their only regular season home game, kicking off against Fresta Valley at 4:30 p.m.

In gridiron action, the varsity football Panthers travelled to Roanoke Catholic for their season opener. Our young team showed their inexperience, with mistakes proving costly to the final score, but there were some positive highlights to take home, including junior Ben Montgomery’s 95-yard return of a kickoff for a touchdown!

Earlier in the week the Junior Panther football team traveled to Walker Grant Middle in Fredericksburg for their season opener. Again, mistakes proved costly to the final score but again positive signs were there, including almost 100 yards of total offense and multiple defensive stops of their opponents’ drives. Both football teams are on the road again this week, J.P at Floyd T. Binns and varsity at George Mason, but mark your calendars now for their home openers next week — Junior Panthers at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, against Harper’s Ferry, and varsity at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, against Cumberland.

— Jimmy Swindler, RCPS athletic director

Her midsummer’s Shakespeare

Rappahannock County resident Elise Wheelock performed at the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse this summer as part of the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp. Elise, 15, the daughter of Jennifer and Tobey Wheelock of Boston, played the role of Rosalind in “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare, one of three plays produced during an all-day performance festival at the Blackfriars Playhouse July 7.

She and the other campers played to a full house of appreciative and enthusiastic theatregoers.

Elise Wheelock, left, plays in a scene from “As You Like It” at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton. Courtesy photo.
Elise Wheelock, left, plays in a scene from “As You Like It” at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton. Courtesy photo.

Since 1997, the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton has been responsible for inspiring and teaching the next generation of performers. The center’s theatre camp is a program for young, aspiring actors who want professional-quality training in a college preparatory environment. The camp encourages participants to discover more about Shakespeare by studying the original staging practices of his time: universal lighting, audience contact, live music, taking on multiple roles and cross-­gender casting.

In each three-­week session, campers also participate in performance master classes, including stage combat, dance, music, theatre history and clowning. Throughout the sessions, campers audition for and rehearse an hour-­long version of a play by Shakespeare or one of his contemporaries.

Rappahannock’s JMU grads

Among the students who graduated from James Madison University on Aug. 13 were Vanessa Dunn, a fifth-year education major who hails from Sperryville, and Nicole Loch, an education major from Washington.