Sat down with second year Wilmington High School football coach Scott Killen Monday afternoon.
Practice was cut short by thunder and lightning, so the former Wilmington College football player had a few extra minutes to chat.
“People were like ‘8-2 (record in 2014), you had a great year,’” Killen said. “No, we didn’t make the playoffs. That’s the way I took it.”
Killen, despite having two state championship rings to his credit, will not settle for anything less as he leads the Hurricane.
“I don’t want them to think 8-2 is acceptable,” he said. “I want 10-0. 10-0 gets us a lot of things. It gets us a perfect season, it gets us a league championship. It takes care of a lot of things these kids haven’t experienced.”
Likewise, the return to Alumni Field for home games has a lot of people in the community and on the team excited for the 2015 season.
However, only play on the field will carry that excitement much further than the end of September.
“I couldn’t be more thankful for the donors to make the dream a reality to come back to Alumni Field,” Killen said. “I’ve heard nothing but great conversation with alumni about coming back to the field.
“Then we (the team) have to shut up and play.”
Killen has driven his team hard as his second season as a head coach approaches. Eventually, he hopes the players — seniors specifically — are the ones who take the wheel, so to speak.
“The older kids, they want more,” said Killen. “Right now, getting them to get the younger kids to want more … that’s what we’re trying to get through to them. It’s senior leadership. I’m hoping one leader or three leaders step up to take ownership of the team because I’m ready to hand over the reins. It’s their (the seniors’) team. This is their last hurrah. God willing, I get to come back next year to build another team. The seniors, I want them to take ownership. Once they take ownership of it and take the reins, the other kids will follow.”
One phrase Killen likes to use is “Don’t talk about it, be about it.”
There are several players who have impressed Killen early in camp.
Marlyn Frisco has shown well on defense. “He’s grown up a lot from last year,” said Killen.
Brady McCune “is like our utility man. He was a our quarterback through the summer with Matt’s (Creditt) injury. Brady can play safety, receiver … he played tight end today in our double-tight package.”
Killen said naming a running back is difficult at this time. “One day, one guy looks good and the next day another guy looks good. We’re trying to find a guy who can do it consistently and also a guy who is durable enough to play both ways.”
Killen noted there will likely be some freshmen who are going to see time on Friday nights. One he mentioned was D.J. Ames, a player who “can fill in offense and defense. The kid has a motor,” the coach said.
Killen said the team is ahead of where it was in 2014 but there is still a need to get the offensive line up to par.
“Finding five guys who can gel and understand what’s going on,” said Killen. “We’re almost there but you get into the two-a-day injuries and that sets you back. Right now, there’s a bug going around, so it’s frustrating but we’re getting there.”
The team roster is currently at 64 players, freshman through senior. Killen said that number is down from where he wants it to be, especially with the linemen. He noted this year’s freshmen “had a great season last year” but most of their linemen didn’t come out. You don’t know why. We’ve tried calling, they’re just not interested in playing. It’s the nature of the beast, the nature of the generation.”
Killen said some of his coaching friends have encountered the same low numbers in lineman.
“My job is how can I get linemen out,” he said. “That’s the foundation of your program, having a great offensive line. We’re going to be young (on the line) so the future is bright but I’m not looking for the future. I’m looking for now. I’m not the most patient person.”
Killen said Zane Stevens did not play on offense last season but has “stepped up” to be a senior leader. Stevens and Connor Barton “will be great anchors on the offensive line.”
The coach said every day the team is taking steps in the proper direction. Some days they’re big steps, other days they’re baby steps.
“I think once we get there and the kids understand, I think we have the potential to do something pretty exciting on Alumni Field, on the season.”
And to be successful and reach the goal of the playoffs, the players must be willing to put personal gain aside for the betterment of the team.
“If you want to win, and this is something we’ve preached all off-season through the preseason and the summer, to be a champion you have to be selfless, you have to be willing to take uncomfortable step to put your team over the top,” said Killen. “Winning is uncomfortable. You look at all the teams that win and they do uncomfortable things to get there.
“And that’s good. I’m OK with being uncomfortable. 8-2 and not making the playoffs was not cool for me. Being selfish, I want it all. I want all 15 weeks of the season. That’s what makes memories. Make memories, make the most of it. Put yourself in a situation to be uncomfortable and take it to another level.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.