Alex Barnes is on the schedule.

That could be a big concern for football rivals that face Winters Mill and its quarterback this fall.


After leading the county in passing yards last year with 1,933 and tossing 18 touchdown passes, the junior expects to put up even bigger numbers running the Falcons' pro-style offense.

"I definitely have grown as a quarterback," Barnes said. "I am more confident in what I am doing. I have more of a handle on things."

Winters Mill coach Matt Miller agrees with the 5-foot-10, 180-pound quarterback.

"He is more composed," Miller said. "As a 10th grader, he wanted to rip it and make plays. We would tell him, 'You have to make the easy throws.' He has gotten better at that. He knows what we want from him."

Miller is eager to improve on last year's 3-7 record (1-4 county).

He's cautiously optimistic because the Falcons have more talent, depth and speed. They are stronger, too.

"The kids have made a concerted effort to be in the weight room and I think we are a lot stronger than we have been in the past," the coach said. "I think we have more team speed all around. We have a long way to go, but I've liked what I have seen so far."

The hope for Winters Mill's success comes back to Barnes and the offense, which returns six starters.

The Falcons had some turnover at wide receiver.

They graduated Times first-team all-county performer Dimeon Wright and second-team all-county pick Cody Freels, but returned senior and second-team all-county selection Troy Blessing.

Blessing caught 32 passes last year for 300 yards and two touchdowns.

"He catches almost every ball I throw to him," Barnes said. "If I throw the ball his way, I know he is bringing it in. He's real strong in yards after the catch. That's a huge asset for him."

Senor tight end Casey Rowe hopes to develop into a reliable weapon.

Running back appears to be another position of strength. Senior Glen Acha returns as the starter. He rushed for 391 yards and two touchdowns on 115 carries.

Winters Mill head coach Matt Miller works with players during a football practice in Westminster Tuesday, August 29, 2017.
Winters Mill head coach Matt Miller works with players during a football practice in Westminster Tuesday, August 29, 2017. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO)

"Glen might be the strongest kid pound for pound that we have on the team," Miller said. "He is more polished. He sees the holes better and hits them hard. He is falling forward and maybe a two-yard gain becomes a 5-yard gain or a 7-yard gain becomes an 11-yard gain."

Senior running back Kevin Foster, a transfer from Liberty, should give the running game a boost.

The backs will be working behind an offensive line that features senior center Kyle Shanholtz (6-2, 255), junior tackle Dylan Steinwedel (6-4, 220), senior tackle Collin Smith (6-4, 200) and senior guards Blake Billings (5-11, 235) and Alex Miller (5-10, 220).

"I think they could be a very good offensive line," Miller said. "This is the strongest unit physically that we've had. I hope that translates into success for them."

On defense, the Falcons can't give up as many big plays and points (361) as last year.

Tackles Shanholtz and Trejan Tucker and ends Miller and Rowe start on the line in the 4-4 defense.

Blessing, Acha, Foster and junior Nico Vagnier make up the linebacking corps. Senior Enoch Cunningham and junior Austin Plummer highlight the secondary.

"I think end to end and outside backer to outside backer, we are stronger and faster than last year," coach Miller said. "And we are probably bigger."