YORKTOWN — “Friday Night Lights” is a series looking in on area high school football programs ahead of the 2023 season.
The Grafton High School Clippers are moving full speed ahead to “burn the boats” in the 2023 football season. Grafton head coach Maxie Bolton returns in his role following a successful first season at the helm.
Before he took over the program last year, Grafton had only won one game in five years.
“We finished six and four our first year and went to the playoffs. We had a fairly good year. Our synopsis of what was going on was that a lot of our players were playing the wrong position for their skill set,” Bolton said.
After taking over head coaching duties, Bolton said he and the staff set out to turn the football team into a football program.
“They didn’t have a true program. They didn’t lift weights, they didn’t do a lot of the key stuff that a normal team would do. We are fortunate to be a really young team with a ton of freshmen and sophomores. and we still managed to go six and four,” Bolton said.
Bolton’s team sees 20 of 22 starters return. Koy Snyder, junior, returns at quarterback. Other offensive returnees include running back Colton Sandiford, and wide receivers Owen Seaford and Kyler Coleman. Defensively, the Clippers return defensive backs Jaden Brown and Makale Barnett, defensive ends Freddie Cowell and Bill Ball, defensive tackle Franklin Lopez and linebacker Hyder Richardson.
Additions to the roster include linebacker Joey Foley and running back Emmanuel Williams.
Two starters graduated, Dave Sanchez (now playing football at Christopher Newport University) and Ben Samson.
Bolton has high hopes for the Clippers this season.
“We’re hoping to have an even better season this year, but you still have to play the games. Everybody gets better every year. We know we have a good team but we also know how football has to be played. We’re working hard every day, we’ve been in the weight room since January. We think we’re going to have a decent year but we know there are going to be some teams that improved that are going to give us a run and we have to play our best football,” Bolton said.
According to Bolton, the Bay Rivers games are always some of the most hard-fought victories.
“Anytime you play inside of our district, it’s a tough matchup. I would anticipate our Lafayette and Warhill games will be just as tough as they were last year. Both of those programs are good programs, they are well coached. Poquoson will be another tough game as the kids are super disciplined,” Bolton said.
Carrying the 2022 mantra of “burn the boats” into 2023 is helping to fuel the fire of the team.
“Week two or three last season, I found an article about Hernan Cortes and his idea in 1519 to burn the boats that his men arrived on in the New World. The idea behind burning the boats was that there was no turning back. We use “burn the boats” as our mantra to get rid of all the excuses, all of the reasons why you can’t and go out there and win,” Bolton said.
A goal for 2023 is to beat Warhill and Lafayette.
Bolton’s philosophy as a head coach is simple: do the little things right.
“I’m a firm believer in doing the little things right. Once we master one thing, we can move onto the next little thing. We try not to move on to the next thing until we get one thing mastered. We beat to the death the little things which shows up in big game moments and what we do,” Bolton said.
Bolton and his coaching staff see how much hard work the kids are putting in each day.
“To see the will and drive that these kids have is special. These kids work harder than any kids I’ve ever coached. Of course, winning is great but watching us grow week after week and becoming successful with all the little things we do is what’s best for me as a head coach,” Bolton said.
Grafton’s away opponents this season include Norcom, Poquoson, Lafayette, Smithfield, Tabb, and York high schools. Grafton’s home opponents this season include New Kent, Bruton, Warhill, and Jamestown high schools.
Game one of the 2023 football season for Grafton High School kicks off on the road against Norcom High School on Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.