Gallagher column: At West, it’s time to get down to business
The room was dark but there was some enlightening going on:
“We’re getting off the ball but we’re not doing anything.”
“That’s a wasted play.”
“Underachieving. Underachieving. You’re better than that, boy!”
“We’re not gaining ground. We’re giving ground.”
“You gotta go, baby doll.”
“We keep doing that and we’ll get our butts whipped, gentlemen.”
If you haven’t guessed by now, that was the normal bantering from high school coaches during a film session.
But this was not a film room at a school with low expectations. This was at West Rowan, where the Falcons are always favored to win.
Scott Young knows it, too. He accepts it. He likes it. And to stay favored and respected, he knows he can’t have prima donnas on his team.
That’s something he will not accept. That’s something he doesn’t like.
So, while watching film, he lets the players know when they’re messing up.
“I’m not being mean, son, but if college coaches see what you just did …”
That’s the tough love Young has instilled in his program. The kids don’t pout. They listen.
“Our philosophy is, it’s not just coaching football, it’s teaching,” Young explained. “There’s always classroom work. And sometimes, you’ve got to get on the kids. You’re not in there to embarrass them. You’re in there to teach and correct those mistakes and learn from those mistakes.”
When Young is told the Falcons will be favored in every single game they play this season, he becomes brutally honest.
“Well, this 2008 football team has to get better or that’s going to change. Right now, we’re not as good as we should be.”
The Falcons have been bonding for a month but this is the week West Rowan really gets down to business in its quest for a fifth straight North Piedmont Conference championship.
Friday is Opening Night as the North Rowan Cavaliers come to town.
Young brought his coaches in for their first Sunday meeting of the season.
“You’ve got a game plan,” Young said, noting the assistants go over the opponent’s offense and defense. “It’s much more fun now.”
Monday arrives, which means weightlifting, agility ropes, sprinting, and, of course, film study:
“Good hustle. Good route. Good catch!”
“That’s a beautiful ball, B.J.”
Good job. Gbunblee’s going to take somebody’s spot.”
“That’s good, Ricky. That’s good. Keep coming, Ricky.”
“That’s a good, physical run, K.P.”
“Great job. Great composure, B.J.”
“Two good scrimmages, boy. That equals more playing time!”
See, film sessions aren’t all bad, right Coach.
“You’ve got to praise them when they do well,” Young points out with a satisfied smile. “You can’t just keep pounding them. You’ve got show them what’s good, too.”
Then, it’s out to the field. Coaches go to their stations.
Stevie Williams and Ralph Ellis are on the left. Ed Bowles and Joel Crotts are on the right.
“God gave you two hands,” Bowles tells a player. “What are you doing with them?”
The player walks off, bummed out.
“Hey, come here,” said Bowles, who has coached football for four decades. “You can scratch and talk to me at the same time.”
Jeff Chapman urges the backs through makeshift dummies.
“Drive, drive, drive, drive!” he screams. “I need physical play out of you, son!”
Defensive coordinator David Hunt and Tim Dixon work with the defensive backs, the biggest question mark on the team.
“You young pups are half-stepping,” Hunt yells. “Is North Rowan going to walk around?”
“A good defense is played in layers. This is the last layer.”
Durwood Bynum and Ken Karriker work with the jayvees.
“He was open and stopped running,” moaned Bynum. “Oh, Lord.”
Kevin Parks, Joe Nixon, Lee Linville ó they all yell encouragement.
At the far end of the field is receivers coach Butch Browning.
“Come here, Hill,” he says motioning toward senior receiver Johnathan Hill.
“I told him to make his routes real precise,” Browning explained. “He knows what to do. He just needs more encouragement. He’s got to be a leader, but he has to be a little more vocal. He’s working on it.”
Browning is in his 27th year of coaching football so he’s seen it all. He knows what fans think. There have been few games during his six years here that West hasn’t been the favorite.
“It puts pressure on you because everybody expects you to win,” he said. “If you come up short, it’s kind of embarrassing. It’s more than just another loss.”
Young, who has coached 25 straight victories over Rowan County opponents, gathers his players around.
“You know what I want,” he says sternly, proudly and lovingly. “I want you to win. I want you to be a champion. I want you to tell your kids you won all those championships.”
The Falcons went home that night knowing exactly what will be expected of them when they run through the banner on Friday night in front of a blue-clad, cheering throng.
West Rowan will be favored to win.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.