When something runs as deep in your veins as football does for Ethan Varney, it’s hard not to instantly love the sport you see your family pour their blood, sweat and tears into.
“When I was growing up my brother was always playing,” Varney said. “It honestly became a family tradition and my love for the game was second nature, it just felt right.”
Though his love for the game came naturally, some would say he is twice the baseball player than he is a football player — that makes no difference to Varney.
Tug Valley’s Tyler Chaffin transferred to Belfry. That left an opening at quarterback for the Panthers. For a lot of schools this would be a hard void to fill, but for the Panthers it’s a simple matter of retooling the offense and making Varney the signal caller going into his senior season.
“Coming into the season I thought I was going to be playing slot receiver, but when our old quarterback transferred, the coaching staff just told me it was my job now,” Varney said. “So I continued lifting and doing little things to help me get an eye for playing quarterback.”
The transition hasn’t been without some growing pains.
“ It’s a whole different view point being behind center instead of out wide,” Varney said. “Now I’m breaking down defenses and trying to find as many openings as possible.”
Varney is also going to be one of the starting cornerbacks for the Panthers this season and will be expected to hold his own in coverage as one of the returning playmakers in the defensive backfield.
However, Varney made it clear that playing corner on defense may lead to some advantages for him as he progresses in the QB role.
“When I’m playing corner I know to watch the quarterbacks eyes, so when I go back to quarterback I’m getting better at being able to look guys off,” Varney said. “Also as a corner I understand coverages and where holes may be in zone schemes. So as a quarterback once I see what the defense is in I know where my throwing windows will be and it should make things a bit easier for me and my receivers.”
Varney and the Panthers have been pushed beyond their limits coming into the season trying to be as prepared as possible. Taking full advantage of the three-week period was a major emphasis that Varney touched on.
“The three-week period was rough,” Varney said. “Mostly because coach (Hady) Ford hasn’t lowered his expectations for us at all. We really focused on putting in most of our new offense and really getting into shape. Then we finally got to hit other people for a change and now that we’ve got it rolling everyone is on the same page as far as being ready for the season.”
Tug Valley will kickoff the season on the road against the Hurley Rebels from Virginia on August 30.
“It’s always a crazy type of atmosphere when you go into ‘The Cliff,’” Varney said. “The fans are always into it and when a big hit goes down they just get louder.”
But, with every season comes games that teams view as a measuring stick to see where they are as opposed to where they want to be.
For Varney he thinks Sherman is one of those games.
“Last year they made it deep into the playoffs and we want to prove something to the rest of the state because due to some transfers people seem to think we wont be as good as we think we will,” Varney said.
Tug Valley hears all of the expectations about what others think they’ll do this season. The Panthers are using that as motivation.
“As a group in the locker room we have got together and talked about how many people in our community and even our own school doubt us and think that we are going to go 6-4 or something like that, but we are looking for 10-0,’ Varney said. “We set our expectations high because we want to prove them wrong, that’s it.”
This mindset that Varney and his teammates have is set in stone due to the tremendous faith and intensity new head coach Hady Ford and his staff have drilled into the team.
“Coach Ford has raised the intensity and set expectations high for us, and he isn’t going to give up on us or lower his expectations because he tells us everyday in practice that if he does that then we will become an average team and that’s what everyone, but us expects,” Varney said.
Varney and his explosive playmaking ability will prove to elevate the Panthers who are looking to excite fans and make them believe in the team just like every player in the locker room does.
Tug Valley will kickoff the season Friday, August 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Hurley, Va.