August 12, 2010
Defense, Leadership Key to Wolverine Football Success
Defense may make the difference for the success of Wolverine football this year, says head coach Mark Farriba, as he enters his fourth year coaching the Prince Avenue Christian School team.
“We are going to play fast, run to the ball, and tackle well,” he says. “We have made defense a priority. It is the most important thing we do to move ourselves to the next step. We are really putting a lot of effort and time into getting better defensively.”
And the Wolverine defense has an advantage…former Air Force Academy and University of Georgia Defensive Coordinator Richard Bell recently joined the Wolverine staff. With over 40 years experience in college football, Coach Bell brings alot of experience to the team. “He is very professional,” says Farriba. “We really trust him with our defense. What he brings to our team will make a difference.” On defense, the coaches are placing a priority on speed and quickness over size. “We’re big enough,” says Farriba. “But no matter the position, we are emphasizing getting to the ball quickly.”
The Wolverine offense, however, should be farther along this year. We’re entering our second year with the Wing T,” he says, “and there is a level of retention that lets us move forward. We won’t be as dependent on one guy this year. We hope to have better ball distribution.”
Replacing last year’s offensive star Taylor Clark will be difficult because he played with such skill and passion, says Farriba, “but we expect tailback William McNeely to step up and run the ball well.” The entire Wolverine offensive line returns this year, with senior center Quinn Adamson and senior guards Dillon Faulkner and Mark Zeagler among the team’s key starters. Also returning are junior tackles Carter Patton and Josh Grider, and tight end James Shirley. “These guys have varsity experience,” says Farriba, “and that has to be a strength offensively.”
New quarterback Carl Mattox is working hard to pick up the Wing T offense,” says the coach. “Last year, he played quarterback for the junior varsity as a freshman, even though that was the first season he ever played the game. He often relied simply on his athletic ability to make plays. Now, he is having to learn how to play the position. It is a huge learning curve for him, but he is progressing well.”
Mattox will have a new weapon to work with this year. Junior Daniel Howell will give Mattox a great target at split end, if the Wolverine can get the ball to him, Farriba says. “We’ve got some offensive tools,” he claims. “Now, we just need to make the plays.”
The team’s weakness on the field is its special teams, according to Coach Farriba. “Mark Zeagler will be punting again for his third year, and that’s a good thing. But, we really need to find someone to kick the ball for us. That competition is wide open.”
It is team leadership, however, that will help the Wolverines meet their goals this year, states Farriba. “We are looking for our nine seniors to step up and be leaders this year. We need guys who will hold the other players accountable for what they are doing on and off the field. We need those two or three guys who are really able ‘to walk it, talk it, practice it, and demonstrate it…all the time.’”
That leadership will help the team break through the tough times, and begin to beat the teams that the Wolverines must beat in order to make the playoffs this year. “We have played well against some teams in our region over the past few years,” says the coach. “But, we have not had that break-through, signature win which gets us in the conversation about the playoffs. It is time for us to make that move.”
The region schedule may have gotten harder this year, according to Farriba. “We lost Wesleyan, who was one of the top teams,” he says. “But we picked up George Walton and Riverside Military Academy. We expect both those teams to be tough. These are two more very competitive teams.”
Farriba expects the work the players put in over the summer to pay dividends during the season. “We had a good summer. Good attendance, good workouts, and a good camp…and we’ve added some new players, and that helps.”
Even with an increasing number of players committing to football, Farriba recognizes that depth may still be an issue at some positions. The team also has a few players dealing with injuries. “We still have a bunch of guys who have to play a lot,” he says. “We need to develop guys who can spell them a little during the games.”
In addition to Coach Bell, Farriba is working with other new coaches this year. Only assistant coach Brian Wommack has been with the team since its inception. New coaches include Chance Jones, who joined the Prince Avenue teaching staff this year, and former public school administrator and coach John Kennon.