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Members of the Comet varsity football team, front row, from left, are Markee Brooks, Thomas Owen, Wendell Adams, Kendall Adams, Domonic Henderson, Lemal Adams, Deion Lipscomb, Dale Trent, Travis Lipscomb, Iric Webster, Shaquan Bailey and Davon Greene. Second row, manager Joe Tucker, Kwame Lambert, Jordan Keck, Tywaun Boyd, Demetre Faulkner, Justin Boyd, Thomas Logan, Devin Walton, Devin Young, Robert Metz, Terrance Brandon, assistant coaches Dave Wojtecki and James McDaniel, and head coach Stan Hodgin. Third row, assistant coaches Garrick Vogt and Robbie Compton, Darius Bethel, Zane Long, Chris Watson, Trey Reese, Demonte Berkley, Domonic Gaines, Martel Posey, Scott Rickman, Dante Hamlett, Lamar Green, Chris Thorpe and assistant coach Fred Palmore. Back row, assistant coaches Mick Gallagher, Lavar Medley, Matt Gunn and Jay Cole, Andre Ervin, Nathanael Stanger, Dru Henderson, Devonte Mitchell, Matthew Trent, Monshae Ferrell, Destin Boyd and assistant coach Billy Lucas. / August 27, 2009
Last year’s 3-7 disappointment led to some significant changes in the off-season for the HCHS varsity football program, which starts its new season Friday at Petersburg.

Third year Comet head coach Stan Hodgin still expects complete intensity from his players, and there are indications this year’s team has bought into that philosophy this year.

“I fully expect us to come to practice, to come every Friday night focused and fully prepared to give our best effort,” said Hodgin. “I expect us to get better physically each and every day.”

From the wins and losses standpoint, “if we do the things we have complete control over, which certainly is attitude, effort, playing with heart, the wins and losses will take care of themselves,” said the Comet coach.

The theme for the fall is redemption.

HCHS had its first losing campaign in four years. The year started with critical special teams mistakes in a tough loss at home to Petersburg, and the Comets never really recovered. Along the way, with a few plays that went awry in some close games, and the Comets were headed to a 3-7 season.

The seniors this year promise it won’t happen again.

“Back in the spring, … I had a group of seniors come to me and ask if I had decided on the theme for this season. I told them I had a couple of ideas.

“They said they had come up with something as a group of seniors, and they really liked redemption. They felt … there was some unfinished business from their junior season. They did not want their senior season to end in the same way, and they wanted to use redemption as the theme for the year,” said Hodgin.

The chemistry and leadership of the seniors has been excellent.

“They lead by example. They are vocal when they need to be, when encouraging their teammates to either increase their effort or to increase their focus. They’ve been very supportive when things aren’t going well. They’re very complimentary when things are done right. They’ve done an outstanding job of leading to this point,” said the Comet head coach.

There’s another major change heading into the fall.

HCHS will now play its best players going both ways, a subtle shift in philosophy from the recent past.

“We are practicing every one of our players in at least one offensive position and at least one defensive position, and kind of the thought there was, when we get a key third down at any point in the ballgame, that we’re able to put our 11 best football players on the field,” said Hodgin.

“In years past, we’ve tried to put our 11 best offensive players on the field or our 11 best defensive players. And there certain times that I looked around, and we had a key third down play for our defensive unit. Standing there on the sidelines with me, was guys I would have included in our 11 best football players, but they weren’t on the field because they were offensive players,” said Hodgin.

The Comets will show more flexibility this season.

The feeling now, to give the Comets the best chance to be successful, HCHS will exercise “the flexibility of, at any given time, putting the best football players in the program on the field,” said Hodgin.

Hodgin noted every one on the football staff is coaching an offensive and defensive position this fall.

HCHS also wants to do a better job protecting the football.

“There’s three factors that determine the outcome of a football game, more than any other. The turnovers are one of them. Defensively, we’ve got to cause turnovers. We’ve got to end opponents’ drives with turnovers, because turnovers yield field position,” said Hodgin.

“Offensively, we’ve certainly got to reduce the amount of turnovers,” said Hodgin.

Hodgin said the staff is working on precision in the spread offense, to ensure that the ball goes to the correct place at the correct time. The goal is to reduce interceptions, to make sure that the ball isn’t forced into coverage with improper execution.

As for lost fumbles, a frequent problem last season, Hodgin said, “we’ve worked real hard on ball security, the way we carry the ball especially in traffic.”

Hodgin noted HCHS has had one pass picked off in two preseason scrimmages. The Comets have put the ball on the ground a couple of times, but HCHS is striving for improvement there.

HCHS has also made some substantial changes in its defensive scheme. Halifax struggled to stop teams last year at times.

HCHS will use three down linemen, backed by three inside linebackers and two spurs, versatile players who can cover the run and pass.

“Basically, what we did defensively in the offseason, we looked at a list of our returning players and identified individual strengths and weaknesses of our players, what they are actually capable of doing under normal game situations,” said Hodgin.

“What we discovered is, we had some guys who were very athletic. We were not necessarily blessed with great size, but we did have real good athleticism. We did not have a lot of depth (among the) defensive linemen, so we looked for a scheme that fit what our strengths are, and we tried to avoid as much as we could the obvious weaknesses we had from a personnel standpoint,” said Hodgin.

“We migrated to an odd stack look,” said Hodgin.

Call it a 3-3 or a 3-5 (the defense has different names), but, basically, HCHS is going to put about eight defenders in the box.

HCHS really struggled to stop the run, so this defensive change could produce significant improvement in that department. That’s certainly the goal of this coaching staff.

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