EAST BEND - Coming off a dismal 1-9 campaign a year ago, Forbush head coach Chris Johnson is looking to change just about everything with the program.
“You hope to change everything - change that final record, that’s for sure,” he said. “Going 1-9 definitely leaves a terrible taste in your mouth. It is something that eats at you throughout the off season if you care about football. I think we have a core group of kids in which that statement is true about.”
That core group of kids - seniors Tyler Johnson, Cameron Butner, Zack Brock and Donavon Beavers - will bring much-needed leadership to a young squad heading into the season.
“We have four captains who have stuck out as far as the energy they’ve shown - Johnson (split-end/defensive back), Butner (split-end/defensive back), Brock (offensive lineman/defensive lineman) and Beavers (offensive lineman/defensive lineman). Those guys have demonstrated great leadership for us, and that’s what we need,” Johnson said. “When you go 1-9, your leadership is part of your problem as well.
“Those guys have the mindset that we’re not going to have that happen again this year.”
But the biggest change for the Falcons will be at the quarterback position, as junior Carson Fulp takes control of the offense from two-year starter Bennett Winslow.
“As far as what we’re going to do differently, we have a change in the quarterback position, so we’ll definitely have a different look,” Johnson said. “We’re going to utilize Carson Fulp as a runner and a passer - everything is going to go through him. We’re going to give him some option reads, which he has the luxury of choosing to keep it and run it or throw it. We’re going to be a little more diverse because of him.”
Joining Fulp in the backfield is dynamic running back Jordan Sawyers. As a sophomore last season, Sawyers rushed for 833 yards and six touchdowns, despite missing two games with a broken bone in his hand.
“We’re still high on him; he’s a difference maker,” Johnson explained. “He’s someone that we’re looking to ride him until he drops. We need Jordan to be a 20-carry-a-night ball-carrier for us, but we also need him on the defensive side of the ball as well. I would like to have the luxury of resting him, but he’s too good of an athlete not to be on both sides of the ball.”
The biggest challenge facing the Falcons will simply be numbers.
“In the four years I’ve been here, we just finished our best summer turnout,” Johnson said. “It’s not even close to the turnout I want, but we’re much better off now than we were four years ago. We’ve got kids who have invested in the program and have worked hard in trying to turn it around. It is important to those kids.
“We had 22 boys come and make it to 22 workouts this summer - again, it’s not the numbers we want, but it’s better than what we’ve had,” he added.
Being one of the smaller teams in the area, Johnson understands the importance of keeping his players healthy.
“We have to stay healthy,” he said. “Every player is important to us, even our back-ups. We are limited in our numbers and we can’t afford to lose a kid to injury, grades or lack of interest.”
Forbush kicks off the season against local rival Elkin on August 23, in what is now a non-conference tilt. The Falcons play six non-conference games, including four contests against teams from the Mountain Valley Conference, before opening conference play against South Stokes on October 11.
Despite the low numbers and a change at the quarterback position, Johnson is confident heading into the year.
“The expectation is to be better than we were last year, and that’s very doable,” he said. “When you go 1-9, that needs to be the number one goal. I think that’s something we can correct and work on.”