WHEELING - The John Marshall football team finished 4-6 last season and did so with a lineup full of sophomores and juniors. Well, the Rick Goodrich Weight Program 3.0 has that group looking more like men these days, than boys.
The Monarchs open the season Aug. 29 at home against University, and they are preparing for that with big goals in mind.
''We're at that stage right now where we need to set the bar high and shoot for more than a winning record or the .500 mark. We need to get to the next level and it's taking it step by step,'' Goodrich said. ''We made some progress from Year 1 to Year 2, and now we need to make even bigger progress from Year 2 to Year 3.
Photo by Shawn Rine/Veteran John Marshall assistant coach Gerald Miller lets his players know what to expect.
''If they play like they're capable of playing and every senior has a career year, then I think we're capable of having a special year.''
There's less teaching and more going on these days in the land of the lion, which is a good indication the players are aware of not only what they are doing, but also what is expected. That has led to practices packing up early this week, not because a break is needed, but rather things are running at a more efficient pace.
''The kids are familiar with what we are trying to do, so I figure why waste their time and waste ours?'' Goodrich said. ''Give us 4-6 seconds of maximum effort from Point A to Point B and get that accomplished, and we'll get out of here.
''The kids have great attitudes and they've had a great offseason. There's a good chemistry amongst these guys and I think they are excited to get out here and get the summer camp going and get ready for August and see how the Fall pans out.''
There's a new sheriff in town, sort of. Scott Holt was more like a deputy the last couple seasons for the Dragons, but now he's the man in charge.
''Things are great (because) we were left in a pretty good position and a lot of coaches are working hard,'' Holt said. ''We've had a tremendous turnout in our weight room and through June practice.
''I think I counted 28 guys out here so things are good. We've got some playmakers.''
Like most coaches, Holt and his staff are attempting to get things installed now so come August, it will be second nature. However, the Dragons aren't shy about where their focus is, even at this early juncture.
''We're really focusing on Bishop Donahue,'' Holt said of the season opener, Aug. 29 in Cameron. ''Those 7-on-7s are important and building cohesion here in June is important, but if I said my mind wasn't on Bishop Donahue or that our kids' shouldn't be, I'd be lying.
''We're really trying to put the pressure on these kids to get them to give 100 percent every day. We let them know what we're expecting and that's where their bar needs to be too.''
Class A schools don't often have the means to replace a senior class as successful as the one the Bishops lost to graduation. While true that several all-staters were gone as the club opened summer workouts, more than a handful are still in the fold.
''We are fortunate to have a good bit of returners but there are going to be spots we have to get kids more prepared and there will be a lot of teaching,'' BD coach John Durdines said. ''I know Coach (Howard) Stamp is going to be working really hard with the line as far as trying to replace a couple seniors that were stellar for us.
''Kids are coming to us saying they want to lift more, condition more. Then we realize these kids are ready to make that next step.''
After making it to the state quarterfinals a season ago where things snowballed out of control in a loss to Williamstown, there isn't a ton of room for improvement for Donahue. With first team all-state quarterback Jesse Padlow geared up for a record-setting senior season, the sky appears the limit.
''During this time we're just trying to shake of some rest and mentally get back to where we were last year, as far as remembering how we're going to line up, certain formations and pass route combinations,'' Durdines said. ''It's more of a refresher to get them back on the page.
''We try to go over all the drills we're going to two in August that way when two-a-days do come, we don't have to do a lot of explaining and we can just hop right into it.''