Justin Crandall expected his second season leading the Port Edwards football team to be better than last year.
He just didn’t think it would be so dramatic.
The Blackhawks are 3-1 through four games and already have won more games than last year.
“Watching film of our first game last year was a real wake-up call for me,” Crandall said. “I thought we had the boys prepared and we weren’t very good. I knew we had to do something different to prepare the team.”
It took some time to figure out the best approach, and now the Blackhawks have a new way to use their scout team.
Instead of trying to simulate all the base plays of an opposing team, Crandall picks the four to five plays he sees the opposition use on film and focuses on stopping those.
“If we can stop their bread and butter, the other team is going to get out of its comfort zone and do some things they don’t want to do to try and score.”
The strategy seems to be working. The Blackhawks have given up just 82 points in their first four games this year and yielded 119 during the same time a year ago.
“Focusing on a handful of plays seems to work,” wide receiver Chris Montag said. “Teams might get a trick play on us, but that will only work once. We feel like we can stop other teams better. When we go into a game, we feel confident that we can stop their main plays and I don’t think we felt we could all the time last year.”
Crandall made some offseason changes as well.
Actually, it was more of a wholesale change in the attitude of the program.
He made weight room participation mandatory.
“Last year, I could tell that other teams were stronger than us,” Crandall said. “That isn’t the case this year. Our guys are significantly stronger than they were last year and the kids realize it.”
Quarterback Collin McCarville can see it in his linemen, “Our line is really solid this year and are getting a good push up front. They give the offense plenty of time execute our plays and we’ve been scoring more touchdowns.”
The Blackhawks have scored 15 touchdowns this year, eight passing and seven rushing. Last year heading into Week 5, they had just nine scoring plays.
Port Edwards has been playing better on the field, and thanks to new uniforms and helmet stickers, they have a new look to go with the improved play.
“Coach says new look, new attitude,” McCarville said. “We like the new uniforms. We’re a different team with a different focus on what we want to do. We are more aggressive and don’t back down from anyone.”