MARTINSBURG, W.Va. —After months of tending to myriad off-the-field details, Derek Munson is happy to finally have his team preparing for a football game.
Undoubtedly, the seemingly endless meetings with administrators, parents, boosters and the like all are important to launching a new football program.
“It is nice to really focus on football and prepare for that first game,” said Munson, the first-year head coach of the first-year program at the new Spring Mills High School. “We’re just trying to get into the routine right now. We have a lot of work to do to prepare. We’ve worked hard as a staff and the kids have worked really hard since March.”
The Cardinals will get their first measure of how far they’ve come Friday night when they open their inaugural season at Jefferson.
Spring Mills finds itself at an immediate disadvantage. As a brand new school, there are no seniors in the building, leaving Munson to look to the 17 juniors on his roster for leadership.
“We’re obviously going to have to lean on some younger kids this season without a senior class,” Munson said. “The upside of that is we’re going to have a lot of kids who gain game experience this season that they might not have gotten otherwise. It’s a process and it’s something that’s going to help us in the future.”
The Cardinals are not totally devoid of varsity game time. In fact, they boast their most experience at probably the most important position.
Lane Riner (6-foot, 175 pounds) will be the starting quarterback for Spring Mills, one year after he saw significant time as a sophomore at Hedgesville.
“He has more game experience than all of the kids on our squad put together,” Munson said. “Each day, he continues to assume a bigger role, especially in terms of leadership. We’re looking to him right now and seeing other kids step up as leaders.”
Riner was a second team Potomac Valley Conference quarterback last season, and Munson is putting him in charge of the Cardinals’ pistol offense this season.
Munson said he has several running backs who will share carries out of the backfield, but junior Jordan Alston (5-11, 180) will likely be the starter and get the most rushing attempts in the opener.
In the passing game, Riner will have a big target in tight end Sam Eyler (6-2, 200).
“He’s shown a lot of progress through out camp. We’re expecting a lot of good things from him,” Munson said.
The Cardinals could also be at a disadvantage on the lines, where depth and lack of size will be cause for concern.
As a result, Munson has been focusing on conditioning and execution to help compensate for the size deficit.
“We’re going to be outmanned on the lines in a lot of our games. We know that going in,” Munson said. “We’re not going to match up well with some of these teams so we’ll have to use other methods to make up fror that.”
Defensively, the Cardinals will play out of multiple sets and use aggressiveness and pressure to overcome the size differences.
Sophomore Austin Hurtman (5-10, 140) will be one of the defensive leaders from the safety position.