Blue Raiders have eye on another Division II state title

Woodbridge High offensive lineman TaeShaun Ford-Jackson (50) clears a path during the DIAA Division II football state semifinals a year ago. (File photo)

After graduating most of its skill position players, Woodbridge High is looking to defend its Division II football state championship behind the strength of its line.

“You talk to any coach, you want to build your football team from within,” said first-year coach Jed Bell. “We’re excited about the guys we have in the trenches. Our expectation is to be really good on the line on both sides of the football and we’ll go as they go.”

Bell said it’s a great opportunity for some of the under-the-radar players from 2018’s state title run to step into the spotlight.

Two linemen set for increased roles are senior captains TaeShaun Ford-Jackson and V.J. Singh. The duo will be playing both ways for the Blue Raiders as fall sports practice begins on Monday.

Ford-Jackson was a starting linebacker on last season’s championship squad. He also can rotate at either guard, tackle or center on the offensive line, but will be kept fresh for his defensive duties at times this year.

Bell said Ford-Jackson will step into the role Brock Keeler, the 2018 state Defensive Player of the Year, filled for the Blue Raiders. He added Ford-Jackson was a big reason why Keeler had as good of season as he did a year ago.

Not that Ford-Jackson cared who received the accolades, he just wanted a state championship.

“Whatever we got to do to win, I don’t need the credit,” Ford-Jackson said. “I just want to win and help the team. It’s a team sport.”

“He had a great season,” Bell said. “He really solidified the middle of the field for us. I think he’ll definitely get the recognition he deserves this year.”

Singh meanwhile is slated to play guard on the offensive line and defensive tackle.

When he entered the Woodbridge program as a freshman he was a fullback and a linebacker. But he kept growing and made the switch to linemen full time last season as junior.

It was a transition that Singh welcomed.

“Being a fullback you block more than you carry the ball anyway,” Singh said. “So it was just a transition of always being in a three-point stance and learning the offensive line signals and calls.”

“You could ask him to play quarterback and he’ll do it,” Bell said. “That’s just the type of kid he is.”

The Blue Raiders graduated the starting quarterback, running back, fullback and its top wide receiver the title team. But three of the five offensive linemen will return.

Being an offensive lineman is no small task obviously, a fact which Singh takes to heart.

“Everything does start up front,” Singh said. “If you’re not doing your job, it looks bad for the whole team.”

The two captains are hoping to pick up right where their predecessors left off.

“From what the seniors before us taught us, I feel like I can help carry on the tradition,” Singh said. “We all work so hard, we earn everything we have.”

“We want to keep winning so we’ve been working hard in the summer in the weight-room,” Ford-Jackson said. “We want to get better every year.”

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