For Alex Spangler, being defensive-minded is in his DNA.
The Eastern View senior was an all-Battlefield District selection at cornerback last year. His older brother, Cam, excelled at the same position for the Cyclones prior to graduating in 2018 and accepting a scholarship offer from William and Mary.
However, Spangler’s biggest contributions for Eastern View so far this season haven’t come from batting down passes or snatching interceptions. Instead, he’s emerged as a big-play threat at wide receiver in the Cyclones’ offense.
Spangler has caught three passes in Eastern View’s first two games, with two of those going for touchdowns. Two weeks ago, his 60-yard reception broke a scoreless tie and helped propel the Cyclones to a 28-0 victory over county rival Culpeper. Last week, his 35-yard score was one of the early blows struck by Eastern View in a 63-7 shellacking of visiting Albemarle.
Spangler’s penchant for big plays actually stretches back a bit further than this season though.
In the Class 4 state semifinals last December, he torched perennial powerhouse Lake Taylor for a 74-yard touchdown. He carried that momentum over to the 2019 preseason, where he hauled in a 44-yarder during a scrimmage against Kettle Run on August 22.
Eastern View head coach Greg Hatfield said the biggest reason why Spangler has emerged as a playmaker on offense is the quality of his route running.
“He runs good routes because he works hard on them,” Hatfield said. “He was already known for being a good corner, but he really put in a lot of time during the offseason and in 7-on-7 drills to become a reliable receiver.”
Spangler said he realized he could make an impact at receiver when he was pressed into action there due to injuries and wear and tear to a handful of his teammates late last season.
“When we had those injuries, I knew I had to step up and make some plays,” he remarked. “The Lake Taylor game really gave me a big boost in confidence.”
Echoing Hatfield’s sentiments, Spangler added that his offseason work has been the key to his emergence as a consistent downfield threat for the Cyclones.
“After last season ended, I knew I was going to play receiver [this year],” he said. “I put in a lot of work on speed, agility and route running in hopes of being one of our go-to players.”
Eastern View will undoubtedly look to Spangler, as well as returning starters Blake Leake and Chance Graves, to help loosen up the defense when the Cyclones travel to Porterfield Park to take on nondistrict foe Orange (0-2) at 7 p.m. tonight. The Hornets have allowed a combined total of 553 yards and five touchdowns through the air in losses to King George and North Stafford.
“I thought [Orange] was one of the most talented teams we played last year,” Hatfield said. “When you look at them on film, they are talented again.”
Orange senior running back Jaylen Alexander has topped the 100-yard mark in each of the Hornets’ first two games, amassing a total of 228 yards and averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He’s also scored four touchdowns.
“He’s the best running back in central Virginia, if not the state,” Hatfield said of Alexander.
Hatfield added that the atmosphere at Porterfield Park only adds to the challenge of beating Orange.
“Playing [at Porterfield] is tough,” he said. “You not only have to contend with a talented team, but a great home-field advantage as well.”
Eastern View leads the all-time series between the two schools 6-0, having won every matchup by at least 26 points.