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Comet football begins for real Thursday
SoVaNow.com / July 29, 2013Year two of the Mike Roark tenure is about to officially begin.
The Halifax County High School varsity football team, coming off a 3-7 season in Roark’s first season, officially begins preseason drills Thursday.
Roark has hardly stopped since last fall. The coach has helped oversee a ton of 7 on 7 drills, sharpening the skills of position players and certain defenders. Five HCHS linemen recently participated in the NFL High School player development competition at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Roark has been involved in a number of moves behind the scenes designed to raise money for the program and raise its profile in the community.
Roark is careful not to raise expectations too quickly.
He said the team will be young, but he added these players have “good chemistry. There are a bunch of good kids out here who get along well with everybody. They get to the weight room, they have a good time, but they get the work done. They work hard.”
The Comets had enhanced 7 on 7 activity, including a summer swing at the Peanut Invitational, with a large number of prep teams involved. Potent programs such as Oscar Smith, Maury and Woodside were involved.
“It gave our guys a chance to see what it takes to be getting up there,” said Roark. Some of the top prep recruits in the state were there, and Roark said the Comets capitalized on the experience.
“They saw what it takes, and that was huge. They came back realizing, hey. we’ve got to do this a lot more. We need to work harder, and it shows, they’re working harder.
“The same thing with the lineman competition. Those guys go to Cleveland, they saw the no. 1 defensive lineman out of Ohio compete against them, and Jarius (Marable) gave them all they could handle. The kid (from Ohio) benched 400 pounds, and he’s a sophomore,” said Roark.
The message to the Comets was unmistakable. “To turn this thing around, we’ve got to pick things up and do a lot better on some of the stuff than we have done in the past,” said Roark.
Roark and the Comets start play in the Piedmont district, and the head coach believes the players are more accustomed to the plans put down by the head coach.
Roark also plans some changes in the way the coaching staff is structured.
“Basically, we’ve got an offensive and defensive staff, and we’re going to coach the varsity and jayvee together,” said Roark.
The idea is to have “the kids are now coming up with the same coaching all the way through high school.”
Roark understands the expectations are rising.
“I think we’re going to be better. Is it going to be a ...180 degree turnaround? It could be, it all depends on the kids and how things fall,” said Roark.
The community needs to be realistic. HCHS has not had a longterm, winning football coach since the Coleman Starnes era. Certainly, Larry Smith had success - the
1991 undefeated state title team featured tremendous athleticism and better overall character than some cynics believe - and John Lacy Harris directed two back-to-back playoff seasons. But more often than not, the program struggled.
“You do the research on this place, this is a three, four year turnaround to get it stable and moving in the right direction,” said Roark.
But he insisted, “We need to improve on last year. Is it 4-6, 5-5? Those are legitimate expectations.”
HCHS has a ‘Meet the Comets’ night on Aug. 21. That Friday, HCHS has a benefit game at Buckingham.
The season starts on the road, against Jefferson Forest on Aug. 30. The home opener is against
E.C. Glass on Sept. 6. Halifax has border rival Person County at home Sept. 13.
HCHS then gets a week off, b efore a third straight home game with GW-Danville Sept. 27.
Halifax goes to Martinsville Oct. 4, before coming home Oct. 11 to play Bassett.
Four of the first six games are at home, which may help build confidence and momentum.
HCHS goes to Patrick County Oct. 18, followed by a road trip to Magna Vista on Oct. 25. Franklin County, always a tough deal for Halifax, is a road game on Nov. 1.
The regular season ends with Tunstall at home on Nov. 8.
“We want to do better than last year. It’s a building process. It’s not a one-year fix. We got better last year, but we still need to learn to close the deal (in close games).
“Last year, we tried to play not to lose a couple of games, rather than keep playing and keep the pedal down and keep going,” said Roark.
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