Hayfield QB Chase Soper (Photo: Brian Knight/recruit757)
Hayfield will lean heavily on their battle tested QB Chase Soper
by Jim McGrath, recruitNoVA
After a season in which he emerged as Hayfield’s top gun at quarterback, Chase Soper (2020 QB 6-1 200) and the Hawks are continuing to look forward as the final 50 days toward the start of the 2019 football season tick away.
And while there is no shortage of competent Gunston area teams looking to knock off the Hawks and win the district title which Hayfield claimed in 2018, it is Soper who retains confidence with an infectious enthusiasm that can’t help but rub off on his teammates.
“Summer trainings have been going great,” said the senior, who transferred from Lake Braddock last summer after a family move. “The team has “legs and lungs” every day from 6:30 to 7:30 am. We work on our 40 (yard) starts and cone drills to improve agility. We all get timed in the 40 at the beginning of the workouts and we will be timed at the end.”
The speed work will certainly benefit Soper, who rushed for 721 yards last season (7.4 yards per carry). “I am currently at a 4.5 40, (and) looking to bring it down.”
The 40-yard time is especially impressive since Soper packs 205 pounds on to his six-foot-one frame, which should give college recruiters a reason to give the Hawk a second look, as he also plays strong safety (and punter) for head coach Eric Henderson. Keeping his strength in mind, he adds, “We have weightlifting in the afternoons as well.” According to his Hudl profile, Soper boasts a bench press high of 285, and the reasonable guess is that he should be eclipsing 300 pounds soon.
The Hawks have been active in the summer tournament leagues this summer, taking part in both the Falls Church and Mt. Vernon passing leagues last month. Says Soper, “We have been doing very well in 7-on-7 tournaments because of our team’s elite speed.”
The speed is needed, especially after losing Rajuan Pringle (58-749-8) to graduation. “Our receivers are not huge, but they will beat you with their legs. We are also continuing to learn and master the fast tempo offense and adding new plays on top of last year’s.” On paper, Hayfield looks to be returning senior Tim Drummond-Wiggins and junior Scott Woods, a pair of sub-six foot pass catchers who combined for 78 receptions and over 1,000 yards, with a dozen TD’s in 2018.
The comment about having a speedy pass game should worry opposing defenses. Along with his prowess as a runner, Soper completed 62 percent of his passes last season, and threw for just 2,028 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2018, despite not playing full time in all 12 games.
“I had to compete for the spot with a senior (Ahmad Shaw) when I first got to Hayfield,” said Soper. “We split time for the first four games. After that I was named the starter.”
For Coach Henderson, the move to Soper behind center was timely. In the fourth game, Hayfield sufffered a gut punch, losing 36-6 to South County. After the decision to name him the starter, Soper and the Hawks went on a seven-game winning streak, which was ended by a 29-19 playoff loss to 6A state finalist Freedom. For the season, Hayfield finished 10-2.
Offensively, Hayfield held its own among district juggernauts such as Mt. Vernon, averaging 35 points per game. The offensive unit’s high point may have been a three-game run where Hayfield beat T.C. Williams (59-37), West Potomac (53-13) and Annandale (53-14), averaging 55 points during the midseason burst.
The Hawks’ big questions this season may come on the other side of the ball. Says Soper, “We lost a lot of seniors on defense, but we have a bunch of young kids coming up that are looking really good.” Elaborating on the thought, he added specifics. “Ben Santos, our middle linebacker, had a great season last year, and will be the defensive leader this year. Scott Woods will be at safety and Naz Battle (rising senior) will play linebacker. Nana (Ankrah, another senior-to-be) had a great season at O-line and will play both ways this year. They will all be huge contributors on D.”
But the competition will be stiff for Hayfield in 2019, and there is no guarantee that they will repeat as Gunston champions. Mount Vernon, returning 1,000-yard rushing quarterback Fonnae Webb, is coming off an eight-win season. The Titans of T.C., with Anthony Eaton and Robert Longerbeam returning to the backfield, will be better than last year’s 4-6 record. Even West Potomac (2-8 in 2018) and Annandale (4-6) have improved in the offseason.
Soper preaches patience for his team. “One game at a time, just like we did last year. (However) this year, we are better prepared and ahead of where we were at this time last year. Mount Vernon and TC will both be tough as always, (along) with South County. But with some of the stuff we are adding we should be much more prepared for them.”
An extra year with his teammates will also help. “ Last year was my first year with the offense, and it was new to me. This year it will be much easier and I can just focus on executing each play.”
– Jim McGrath