Chris Haddock had one whale of a second season as head coach of the Centreville Wildcats in 2011.
He led his young men to a 13-2 record, which included a win over the previously undefeated arch rival Westfield Bulldogs, in what boiled down to a spectacular last-minute blocked field goal by then senior Connor Coward, for the Division 6 Northern Regional Championship. The ‘Cats would eventually earn runner-up in the state championship game against Oscar Smith.
But that is all in the past. Haddock now looks forward to putting some fresh “new faces and names” on the field in 2012 to carry-on Centreville’s winning tradition.
“I don’t know that the younger guys feel any added pressure,” said Haddock regarding his new roster, in a recent phone interview. “A lot of the kids are now sophomores and juniors—we don’t have that many seniors."
"They understand expectations are high," Haddock added. "They’ve had success at the lower levels and I think they anticipate that they’d like to have success at the varsity level. We still have a ways to go—but I do like where we are and these kids are working pretty hard right now.”
During the past three off-seasons, Haddock has seen more and more athletes attend the Wildcat tryouts. But this summer brought the greatest turnout yet: more than 100 kids now make up Centreville’s football program this season, including varsity, junior varsity and freshmen. The third-year coach does not waive anyone from the team and instead believes in giving everyone a shot at achieving his dream.
Read more: Centreville Wildcats Game Schedule
Centreville’s varsity squad looks quite different than the senior-heavy 2011 team and is now predominantly filled with sophomores and juniors. However, that does not necessarily equate with inexperience, as the majority of the boys have played the game for years and many have at least one or two years in Haddock’s system. Still, the coach prefers to share the credit as opposed to claiming it as “his program.”
“This being my third year, it’s not that it’s my program so to speak, but I think all the kids that we’re coaching now have had a couple years in the system,” Haddock said. “It’s much more ingrained in them and it makes things easier.”
Manny Smith, Mitch Ferrick, Connor Coward and Ken Ekanem are names the Northern Region knows well. Opposing teams were forced to game plan for those specific players throughout the past three to four years. But those young men have graduated and moved on to the next level in their lives. Haddock said the Wildcats now have more talent spread across the field than in seasons past. And the fact that they have yet to prove themselves as ‘stars,’ could actually benefit the team and cause chaos for the competition.
“There’s going to be some different faces and names in those spots,” Haddock said. “I think there are lot of kids who are going to contribute, and not just any one or two guys that defenses are going to be able to focus-in or zero-in on. In some ways that’s a big advantage for us.”
Fans should be happy to hear that the solid balance of run versus the pass Centreville exhibited last year will remain intact for 2012. While the starting line-up has yet to be announced, Haddock said the team has greater depth this season and subbing-in players should not result in a loss of skill because of “more quality players.”
“We’re going to be able to play the player that’s hot or play the player who is playing well at the time,” he said. “We are obviously going to settle somewhere on some starters but that may not mean they get the ‘lion’s share’ of everything. Not only are we going to try and be balanced with what we do offensively, I think we’re going to have a real balance of playing time on both sides of the ball.”
While the Wildcat’s success created a fanfare of excitement in the Centreville area, Haddock said he is ready for the 2012 season to begin.
“It’s going to be a great season not only for Centreville, but for the Concorde District and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.”