A Clarksburg assistant coach was roaming the practice field Monday night, wearing a white T-shirt with the message “The Tradition Begins” emblazoned on the back. It’s been a game of patience with this team for the past two seasons. The Coyotes finished 5-5 in 2011, not realizing its potential. Last season, Larry Hurd’s team started 11 sophomores at one point, finishing 2-8. Of those losses, four came by seven points or less, with two by one point.
But now Clarksburg has maturity, to the tune of eight starters returning on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. It has a junior quarterback, Joe Nacci, who has already started 12 games at the varsity level in his first two years of high school. It has an all-league defensive end in senior Zach Thompson, and another end that could become a solid college prospect in senior Bruno Anyangwe.
Most of all, it has an experienced head coach in Hurd, entering his eighth season. He took the boys to Shepherd University in West Virginia for the first week of training camp in August, pushing the team out of its comfort zone in hopes that the isolation would bring the group closer to relevance in county competition this season.
“It was tough for our guys, because it was the first thing. We didn’t really know about it,” said Nacci, who accounted for 1,097 yards of total offense under center last fall. “Living in the dorms was good. Team bonding was one of our great things. We were all learning, just having fun playing football.”
Clarksburg will certainly be tested early and often with its schedule this fall. The Coyotes will visit powerhouse Quince Orchard in the season opener, which will be the obvious litmus test for the young squad. Gaithersburg visits on Sept. 20, with 3A power Damascus doing the same two weeks later. Clarksburg will also have road games at Wootton (Oct. 11) and Northwest (Oct. 25). Hurd’s club is certainly no stranger to tough competition, as eight of its 10 opponents last year made playoff appearances.
“Some people talk about like they’re scared, but its just any other game,” Anyangwe said.
If anything, the Coyotes are improved at the skill positions, especially with the return of speedy running back Travis Holland (354 yards, two touchdowns last year) and its defense will be bolstered by an imposing front led by Thompson, Anyangwe and 6-foot-4, 325-pound tackle Brett Martin, who could be destined for big things his junior season this fall, according to Hurd. Clarksburg’s youth is striking.
During conditioning drills, Hurd separated the group by classes, with sophomores and juniors running sprints before the seniors. The former outnumbered the ladder group dramatically, providing a glimpse into how well off the team could be in 2014. But that is still a year away. With the growing pains his team and staff has endured the last two seasons, Hurd is convinced that his team now has enough experience make a push in 2013 – no matter the depth of quality teams in Montgomery County. The tradition begins this season, and not the next.
“We’ve been really patient. Last year we had sophomores, juniors mainly,” Thompson said. “I don’t really care about myself. I just want to help the team out. All I care about is winning.”