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If Williston Head Football Coach Cliff Lohrey has any apprehension, fear or dread about the 2014 season, he’s not letting it show.
In his first year as the Red Devils’ gridiron leader, Lohrey is all smiles heading into tomorrow night’s season opener against P.K. Yonge on the opponents’ home field.
“We’ve been practicing for the last two weeks,” Lohrey said a few days before the pre-season Kickoff Classic against Central High School, “and the team has been focused. The players have all responded well. We’ve had good practices and have been injury-free so far.”
For the last few days, Lohrey and his coaching staff have brainstormed just who this 2014 team is and aside from winning, what its foundation is.
“We’re still establishing our identity,” Lohrey admitted. “The game against Central will be our measuring stick.”
What the coaches have agreed on is that they will not dress out a Junior Varsity team this season. Instead look to see a mix of some 35 players on this team, with each contending for experience and playing time.
“I’m expecting great things from Tad Donald and Paul Battles,” the coach said. “They will help keep the other teams off balance.”
Expect both running and throwing games this season since Lohrey says his players have equal assets.
“This team has speed and skill to get into position,” he said. “Teams in our district are known for beating up teams who lack endurance. We want to be able to finish games.”
On defense, look for linebackers Derek Dykstra and T.J. Pitts to round out the line with both their athleticism and speed. Adding Andrew Streitz to the mix boosts the team’s strength.
“If it goes the way it should, we will be leaders on defense,” Lohrey said.
On Special Teams, look for Shawn Landon to start things off as kicker and Streitz to attempt the crunch plays as the punter.
“Drew (Streitz) has an innate ability,” the coach said, “and we’re putting him to the test. We will be solid in a kicking game and will be able to create field position. We won’t have regrets over missed opportunities.”
If Lohrey isn’t showing signs of pressure, he knows that it is always lingering in the background.
The biggest setback for this year’s team, Lohrey said, is the lack of depth on both offense and defense.
“We lack depth and we have to create it,” he said. “The general rule is, the closer to the ball, the harder to learn. Some of our players are newer and inexperienced, but we’ve stayed focused and simulated game situations during practice. They’ve been pretty consistent and our practices have gotten better.”
“Coaches are accountable,” said Lohrey, who modeled his coaching style after his own high school coach.
“If you yell about everything,” he said, “no one knows when it means business.
“The bottom line is I’m human, I want to be liked. But when you take a position as head coach, you’d better be prepared for the responsibility that comes with it.
“The true art of coaching, is figuring out what makes every kid tick. Some it will be the private talks, others it will be the harsh tones that inspire them and push them forward. What is truth is there are 35 distinct personalities out there.
“Every decision I make is in the best interests of the players, that way I can look at myself in the mirror and go to bed at night and sleep.”
Lohrey is looking ahead–and forward–to the District games.
“If you can make the playoffs out of this district, you have a chance at state playoffs. It’s going to be an exciting season, especially against Dixie, Newberry and Chiefland.”
Lohrey, 37, graduated from Crystal River High School and was later the defensive and offensive coordinator at Central High School in Brooksville. That job parlayed to him being named head football coach from 2006 to 2009, and taking his team to a berth in the state playoffs.
A graduate assistant from 2011- 2013 at the University of Oregon, Lohrey was the strength and conditioning assistant under the Ducks’ Head Coach Coach James Radcliff.