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Woodgrove Wins 1st State Football Championship
“Good kids. Everyday guys who do the right thing. Good students. Good athletes. They’re good in the community, which is a big deal with me.”
The “me” in this case is Woodgrove High School Head Football Coach Mike Skinner. His Wolverines beat Lake Taylor 38-33 to capture the Class 4 state championship on December 8th at Liberty University. The title was a football first for Woodgrove, which had been to the playoffs six of the past seven years. 2018 marked the ninth varsity football season for the Wolverines and the 40th coaching for Skinner.
“A lot of luck,” is what Skinner said got Woodgrove the crown.
That, and a lot of time in the weight room.
“Weight room. Weight room. Weight room…
“We’re big. We’re strong. We’re the strongest team on the field. We’re physical. We’re smart. We work hard in practice. We’ve got a lot of good, intelligent kids. They’re football smart.”
Woodgrove’s championship season began with some good luck and shrewd coaching moves.
Krzy Miller, who had never played football before – although he was an excellent track athlete and played basketball – moved to Woodgrove’s attendance zone the day before football started. Miller turned into a vital third receiver. “In all the big wins we had this year, he caught at least one touchdown,” said Skinner. Miller’s big catches included a 61-yard score in the state title game.
Offensive lineman Teddy Arvanitis moved in from Florida.
Bailey Burton, who was the quarterback last year, moved to safety. “He really came on,” Skinner said.
Burton moving to the defensive side of the ball resulted in Region 4C Offensive Player of the Year Graham Walker playing quarterback. Walker, a senior, gained 950 yards rushing and scored 13 touchdowns through the first 11 games of the season. Skinner said Walker didn’t run much the first three games of the season, but probably carried the ball 30 times a game after that.
In the state championship game, Walker threw for 343 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 134 yards and another score.
Joining Walker in the backfield was All-Region running back KJ Lewis who, through 11 games, gained a thousand yards rushing with a dozen touchdowns. Freshman Price Williams was named second team All-Region at running back.
Skinner said senior tight end and captain Cameron Beebe, another All-Region selection, epitomized this year’s team. “Quiet, hard worker. Our ninth-graders lift in the morning. I can remember him as a ninth-grader being here three days a week at 6:15… He just made a lot of commitment.”
At wideouts, the Wolverines had Nick Lockhart, who is going to Virginia Tech to play baseball, and Ben Castellano, an All-Region selection who will be attending Richmond.
“On offense, we’re creative; spread, no huddle, go fast,” said Skinner. “We throw the ball well.”
The Wolverines also are big on the offensive line, with no one going less than 250 pounds. “We’re not hurting for big kids here.” All-Region performers on the offensive line included senior center Dominick Caputo and senior Mike Wilson.
On defense, Woodgrove featured the All-Region Defensive Co-Player of the Year, Lockhart, at defensive end and All-Region selections Jordan Berkowitz on the line and Malachi Haynes at defensive back. Senior linebacker Amatz Wolfe was named second team All-Region.
Skinner said health and depth were big parts of Woodgrove’s winning formula. “The second-team kids here become a huge part of what you’re doing. We had a great group that stepped in.” He noted Zach Fones stepped in when Nick Lockhart sprained his ankle and missed a couple of games.
Skinner said the Wolverines were very well-rounded athletically. “Most of them play two sports, if not three. They’re hometown guys. They all grew up here and played youth league sports together… Most of them went to basketball or wrestling on Monday (after the state championship game).”
Woodgrove started the season 1-2 on the way to a 7-2 regular-season record. After beating Armstrong 56-14 in the opener, the Wolverines lost to perennial power Massaponax (26-6) and Broad Run 33-7. Skinner said he knew his team had potential after it beat Tuscarora 42-28 on September 14th.
During the playoffs, Woodgrove beat Loudoun County 28-21; Sherando 23-7; and Blacksburg 26-23 in overtime before facing Lake Taylor.
Skinner, the Region 4C Coach of the Year, is aided on the sidelines by his son, Andy, who serves as the Wolverines’ offensive coordinator. “I leave him alone or he tells me to leave him alone.”
The elder Skinner previously coached Centreville to a state championship in 2000 and has been on the sidelines for five state championship games. He knows what a championship does for a school.
“When you win, you watch the kids celebrate, the parents celebrate. The community gets excited. The kids in school are excited. I worked for a principal a long time ago who said football kind of sets the tone for the year.”