The Surprise Storm: Staunton shocks the area with breakout season
STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - The Staunton Storm was one of the most surprising high school football teams in the Valley this season. The Storm had a breakout year going 7-4 and posting its first winning record since 2018.
“A big part of this year was that we all bought in from the beginning... we didn’t like how things ended last year and we wanted to change it for our senior year,” said senior quarterback Walker Darby.
In 2022, the team saw a big difference on the field and in the locker room.
“We all came together. The chemistry was great between the coaching staff and players, between players and players, everybody just connected,” said junior linebacker Peyton Dunn.
Staunton head coach Michael Bell engineered quite a turnaround in his first season as head coach. Bell previously coached Staunton’s JV team and served as a defensive line coach for the varsity squad.
“I knew the players so I felt it was my time to step up and take that role. When they introduced me as head coach, the kids started clapping and I saw that look on their face it just felt right,” said Bell.
The Storm started the season 7-0 before dropping its final four games, including a 35-0 loss to Heritage in the first round of the Region 3C playoffs. Despite the tough ending, it was still a dramatic improvement after the team went 3-8 last year. This marked the Storm’s best season since 2017.
“The biggest part was giving them that confidence that we can win football games,” said Bell. “It had been a while since we had a winning season. We had the personnel, we had the coaches, we just had to have the right attitude.”
Bell credited his players for their increased accountability and discipline this season. The Storm took big steps forward on both sides of the ball with a much-improved defense and more versatile offense.
“When you’re a one-dimensional team it’s hard for the offense to do a lot of things. This year, we tried to implement a better run game and that really helped,” said Darby.
The team was able to open up its playbook and score in a variety of ways.
“We did a lot of edge stuff this year because we had a whole lot of speed. Using the inside run game, the outside run game, and the pass had people preparing for a little bit more,” added Bell.
As the team enters the off-season, the Storm will look to build on the success of 2022.
“It’ll definitely get more people coming out to watch the games. More players will come out and want to play,” said Dunn. “We’ve really been the laughing stock of the district these past couple of years but I feel like people are starting to respect us.”
Coach Bell believes his team learned a lot from their playoff run this year and can use it as motivation to make an even greater impact next year.
“That playoff environment sets the tone for next year,” said Bell. “Now, a lot of players understand that they have to get in the weight room in the summer. This year set the tone for the next few seasons at Staunton.”
The Storm will be preparing for 2023 with a number of key returners and Coach Bell is excited for the future of the squad.
“I’m confident that our players are going to keep improving,” said Bell. “We’re bringing back a lot of good players, and we’re bringing up a lot of growing athletes that are going to help the program. We’re only losing one lineman this year and that’s a big thing,” he said.
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