A first-year head football coach has a lot on his plate. He brings new ideas to the team, and then he must sell his players and assistant coaches on those ideas.
Two area coaches were successful in taking a big first step, and that is making the playoffs. Marietta's Matt Suffal and Healdton's Mark Barrett coached their squads to the next level and finished fourth in their respective districts.
Now, they both understand they have tough road games ahead of them.
Marietta (4-6) will travel to Frederick to take on the 10-0 Bombers, ranked No. 4 in Class 2A. Healdton (5-5), heads to Cashion to take on the 10-0 Wildcats, ranked No. 5 in Class A.
"I feel blessed to have had excellent assistant coaches and to have had a great group of kids," Suffal said. "We had good senior leadership. Those guys have fought hard to get things done the right way.
This past week (against Konawa), I thought we had the best overall effort we have had this year. The offense was quick, and the defense is starting to tackle well."
Suffal knows Frederick's potential and the fact they have scored 641 points in their 10 games. And he and his staff must find a way to slow the Bomber attack down.
"Going on the road to Frederick will give us a chance to see how we line up against one of the best in Class 2A," Suffal said. They spread the ball around a lot, and they have a lot of speed."
Barrett is pleased that his Bulldogs made the playoffs, and he believes a change in basic philosophy helped move Healdton to greater accomplishments this year.
"Making the playoffs was our first goal," Barrett said. "We wanted to continue a playoff tradition here, and the players made things happen."
Barrett said that the Bulldogs were forced to make changes to their offense because of injuries. Quarterback Colton Dunn was injured early in the season, which prompted Healdton to go to a straight I-formation, according to Barrett.
"I believe it helped us," Barrett said of the change to the "I." We now have a three-back rotation, and our offensive line is doing a great job of just powering over everyone.
"We have Chaz Carr (1,025 rushing yards) and Dylan Pickelsimer (990 yards), and it is tough to key on two 1,000-yard rushers. We are averaging 45-50 running plays a game right now, and it's working great for us."
Barrett must figure a way for his Bulldogs to power past a Cashion team that has outscored their opponents 464-191.
"Cashion is a dangerous team," Barrett said. "They have big linemen and two good sized running backs. Their quarterback does a great job of picking out open receivers, and that will be a big challenge for us."
Page 2 of 2 - Both games are scheduled for Friday night at 7:30 p.m.