By Steve Jones
11:47 PM EDT, August 25, 2012
Home Turf: 3825 Bark Hill Road, Uniontown
Head Coach: David Smith (first season)
2011 Record: 0-10 overall; 0-7 county
The road back to respectability continues for Francis Scott Key. Following consecutive playoff appearances from 2004-06 and a near-miss in 2007, the Eagle program has fallen to the bottom of the county. In the past four years, Key has posted a 2-38 record, including a pair of winless seasons in 2009 and 2011. Last year's team was shut out five times, and scored just 53 points in 10 games.
Mark Hollars, who came to FSK after a long career in Ohio, stepped down and was replaced by longtime Key assistant David Smith in late June. The new head man, who has coached at the school since 2000 and joined the Key faculty three years later, hopes to return the program to prominence.
"We had six straight winning seasons and made the playoffs three times," said Smith, who played college football at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pa. "What we had then that we don't necessarily have as much of now is commitment.
"We need to understand that just because we don't have momentum right now doesn't mean we can't be good again. We need to get people to have faith in the program, and trust in me and the coaching staff."
Smith will use a solid returning nucleus to begin that process. Junior Matt Clingan, a starter at running back and linebacker last fall, and senior quarterback-free safety Justin Daigle will be counted on as team leaders.
"Matt has the right attitude and the right spirit about him," said Smith. "He's the kind of football player you want. Justin's leadership will be big for us."
Francis Scott Key has always employed an "old-school" offense, favoring a strong running game and using the pass sparingly. The Eagles will stick with the same plan this season.
An experienced offensive line, including Cordell Boggs, Tyler Yingling, Kevin Peck and Ricky Rosas, will open the holes. Clingan will be joined by Rye Thomas, Brandon Bollinger and J.T. Tracy in the backfield.
The Eagles, who allowed a county-high 37.2 points per game in 2011, will continue to play a 5-2-4 defensive alignment. Travis Kaiser and Joey Eyler will anchor the defensive line, while Brandon Leese, Cody McMahon and Callen Meeks are expected to be significant contributors.
A lack of depth may force Key to play several players on both offense and defense. Smith estimates that seven players could go both ways, but remains optimistic about the Eagles' ability to make progress.
"Most people define success on wins and losses alone, and that's fair enough," he said. "But as a coach, you understand that there are a lot more ways to judge success. I expect to compete, and take another step forward. I expect to win some games.
"But ultimately, I expect our players to learn what it is to be real men," he said, "to stand up for each other and watch each other's backs."
The Eagles start the season against Walkersville, a playoff team in 2011, then face tough non-league challenges from South Hagerstown and Catoctin. It doesn't get much easier when the county schedule begins, as Key hosts Century and Manchester Valley before visiting defending county champ Westminster.
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