High school football previews: Falcons look to maintain 'focus'

Bill Althaus
Van Horn quarterback Sean Mitchell breaks free during a game against Center last season. Mitchell, one of many with speed on the offense for the Falcons, will be in his second year as the starting signal caller.

In this age of the new normal, Van Horn High School football coach William Harris is looking for any type of edge when it comes to encouraging his Falcons while getting them ready for Friday’s tentatively scheduled opener against Kansas City East High School.

“As a high school coach, you’re dealing with 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds who sometimes aren’t focused – especially for an entire practice,” said Harris, whose Falcons finished 5-5 last season. “I hear everyone talking about the coronavirus and the pandemic and I want to use that to motivate my players. They have seen their classmates lose a spring season.

“And we’re still not sure what’s going to happen this fall. It looks like we’re going to play Friday, but will we have a full season? No one really knows, so I am stressing to them that they have to be focused, they have to work hard. It’s focus, focus, focus in practice, and that kind of attention to detail should pay off this season.”

One player who maintains a razor sharp focus is senior quarterback Sean Mitchell, who can’t wait to open his final season as a Falcon.

“I can’t wait for Friday,” Mitchell said. “We have some great offensive weapons, some new guys people don’t know about, and we’re working hard in practice.

“And Coach Harris talks about paying attention, working hard, being focused, and it’s made an impact on me and the guys on offense. He’s such a great coach – a real motivator who knows what he’s talking about – and we're all hoping for a big season, a successful season.”

Mitchell pauses for a moment, and adds, “We’re hoping for a season! We just have to play this season, it’s my senior year and we have to play football!”

Like his star quarterback, Harris is excited about his veterans, who will be joined by some exciting new faces as they look to maintain their winning momentum. The Falcons have been 12-9 the last two seasons under Harris after going 5-16 in his first two seasons at the helm.

“We will be breaking in a handful of new players this season, so I feel that there will be a growing process,” Harris said. “We’re going to be a work in progress, getting stronger as the season goes on.

“We also have a good core of guys that have three to four years of playing experience. We will have to lean heavily on those guys until our less experienced players catch up.”

There is no substitute for speed when it comes to football, and the Falcons have an abundance of talent in that crucial area.

“We bring back a decent amount of speed on the offensive side of the ball,” he said, “so we should be able to play fast on that side of the ball.

“Defensively, our defensive line should be the strength of that side of the ball with (senior defensive end) Jason Skivers anchoring our line. I really think that we have a lot of skilled athletes on our team, and quite a few of them are on the defensive side of the ball.

“Jason was first-team (Examiner) All-Area last year and Sean is a smart quarterback who can run and throw the ball, and he is going to have some speedy receivers with senior Arlandes Mitchell and sophomores Demetrius Wilson and D’Anthony Jones.”

The Examiner

Falcons at a glance

Head coach: William Harris (fifth season, 17-25 at Van Horn and overall).

Assistant coaches: Anthony Morgan, Roshaad Byrd, Taron Johnson, Sylvester Gibson, Marion Holt.

2019 record: 5-5 (2-1 Crossroads Conference).

Returning letter-winners: 10

Returning offensive starters: Sean Mitchell, 6-2, 185, sr., QB; Tavious Brown, 5-6, 205, sr., RB; David Ballard, 5-10, 280, sr., OL; Augustin Reed, 5-9, 180, sr., WR; Arlandes Mitchell, 6-0, 180, sr., WR.

Returning defensive starters: Jason Skivers, 6-3, 220, sr., DE; Joseph Kroeger, 5-10, 180, jr., LB; Treyvion Paige, 6-1, 180, sr., DB; Damon Washington, 5-10, 215, jr., DL.

Others to watch: D’Anthony Jones, 6-1, 170, soph., WR; Lamonte Belshe, 5-6, 170, fresh., RB; Demetrius Wilson, 6-2, 205, soph., WR.

Senior defensive end Jason Skivers, front left, works with Van Horn football head coach William Harris, right, during a drill at a recent practice. Skivers, who has received several college offers, is expected to anchor the defense for the Falcons this season.