William Harris inherited a tough situation when he took the job as the Van Horn head football coach last year.
He was hired at the end of the 2015-16 school year, which didn’t give him time to try to convince students to try out for the football team. He had few players to work with to begin summer camps.
The Falcons had to cancel scrimmages due to not having enough players. The team started out with just 30 students before increasing to 35-40 by season’s end.
Things are a bit different in Harris’ second year at the helm. His numbers have increased to 45-50 players, and it’s been beneficial for his Falcons as more students are expected to join the team.
“It doesn’t seem like a huge increase for the summertime, but we’ve had that many attending regularly throughout the summer. So, I think when school starts we’ll get about 10 to 15 more to come out of the building. Our anticipation is we’ll be up by 20 to 25 kids (from last season).”
That’s made things a lot easier for Harris going into the 2017 season as he has more players to chose from to fill out his starting varsity roster.
“It’s a whole lot easier to coach when the numbers are there,” Harris said. “The competition has been better, too.”
The numbers increase allowed the Falcons to attend scrimmages and 7-on-7 games, which allowed for some of the newer players to get acclimated to the season and the speed of the varsity level.
So far, summer camps have been going well for Van Horn, and Harris said he expects his team to be better than last season, when the Falcons finished 1-9.
“Last we weren’t that good during the summertime because we just weren’t ready,” Harris said. “We held our own in scrimmages and 7-on-7 against some high-caliber opponents. Things are looking up for us and things are going in the right direction.
“I am all about progress, and the expectation has changed. The way the kids have responded to it has been different. I think my expectations have always been high, but once the familiarity gets there, the kids start to understand those expectations.”
It also helps the Falcons’ cause that the bigger roster allows for some players to focus on just offense or defense. Last season, most players had to play on both sides of the ball because of the lack of depth.
“Some of our guys can concentrate on that one position and not focus on any other things,” Falcons outside linebacker and wide receiver Terrion Seddens said. “They can just focus on what they are supposed to do.
“I felt like some of the guys got very tired (when playing both sides of the ball).”
The team does have the bigger numbers, but underclassmen will be filling many of the positions, including the majority of the offensive and defensive lines. But the upperclassmen have confidence the younger players have what it takes to contribute a lot to this year’s team.
“I feel like these guys are way better than the past young guys,” Seddens said. “I feel like they listen and follow through with what they are supposed to do.”
And that’s part of the season that a few of the players have lofty goals.
“We want to get there. We want to go to state,” Falcons wide receiver Evan Neal said.