When Pat McGlinchey took over the Wicomico High School football program for the 2012 season, the transition was harder than he expected.
He and a solid group of dedicated assistants have rebuilt the program together, and this year’s senior class is the first they’ve have had since they were freshmen.
But that same year, McGlinchey and his staff got their first look at the group of eighth-graders that were coming into the program the following season.
It’s part of that group that carries the success of this year’s Wi-Hi team on their shoulders as juniors — including captains Raekwon McCarter (RB, CB), Isaac Lawson (LB, C) and Jason Patterson (QB).
“I met them as eighth-graders coming into ninth grade and I haven’t seen a group work as hard as they have worked for all three years, McGlinchey said. “I haven’t seen a group work harder than them in my 14 years of coaching.”
None are new to the varsity team, and all have taken to their role as leaders through offseason workouts and as practice got underway last week.
“There is not a lot of senior leadership on this team, but a lot of great players,” Lawson, the team’s starting center, said. “We have to run through the brick wall and let them follow behind us.”
Lawson has been starting on the varsity team since he was a freshman, after he outworked the team’s returning linemen and then volunteered to play center when nobody else stepped up. He said experience with making the jump to varsity has helped him to counsel the first-year varsity players on this year’s team.
“You can see the kids coming up from JV having difficulty transitioning from the athletic difference,” Lawson said. “You tell them to stick with it. Sometimes or some games you just can’t do it. Stick with it keep working at it.”
He battled through his own rough patches and is now the team’s anchor on offense. McGlinchey said he not only knows his responsibilities on every play, but also everyone else’s.
He was already the team’s best offensive lineman as a sophomore last season, playing in front of Patterson.
Patterson came to varsity as a sophomore last season and wasn’t expected to see a lot of playing time. McGlinchey preferred a senior at quarterback, but when an expected transfer didn’t arrive and Patterson simply beat out senior Trevell Jones for the job, it was his.
“I didn’t expect to play so much,” Patterson said. “It has started different this year — more of a chemistry thing. I feel like I understand things more, understand plays, know my center and my line better than as a sophomore.”
Patterson had bruising senior back Nelson Brown behind him in the backfield last season taking some of the pressure off being behind center.
This year, McCarter will be the lead back, adding a different wrinkle to the offense.
“Nelson was 230 pounds,” McCarter said. “I can’t run into a hole like he can, so I have to bounce it to the outside and use some speed.”
McGlinchey calls him the shiftiest player he’s ever seen, while McCarter prefers to describe his own play as making others look like “they are on skates.”
The talent on offense has caused McGlinchey to ask offensive coordinator John Coleman to open up the playbook a bit this season. They will get away from the power running game and spread the ball around more to playmakers.
McGlinchey said a question mark for the Indians could be on the defensive side of the ball, where an inexperienced defensive line will need to learn quickly.
McCarter will be back starting at cornerback along with other athletes who will step in at defensive back. Lawson plays linebacker as well as center. Jones, who is at Apprentice School in Newport News, will be tough to replace at free safety.
Right now, the team is focused on developing the new faces and on the season opener against Cambridge.
“I expect us to do well — not turn on each other, be very disciplined and consistent,” McGlinchey said. “If you are are those three things, you are going to win. You are going to wins lots of games, and I believe this team is going to win lots of games.”
On Twitter: @ShawnYonker