PUMPKIN CENTER — The North Lincoln Knights have a new head coach and a new offensive scheme, and started running plays from their new playbook during practices on Monday.
Head coach David Maness, who took over the Knights earlier in the year, said players are enthusiastic and excited about what the future holds for the Knights after last year’s one-win season. He has instituted a double-wing offense, which he said will play to his team’s strengths.
“We’re not in a situation where we can spread people out because you want them to find space because you’re faster than the other team is,” he said. “That wouldn’t be a good situation for us. We want to get people in space, but we’d probably like it to be about the size of a phone booth. We’re a little bigger, we have some good-sized kids, and a lot of promising young linemen.”
There were 14 juniors on last year’s roster, including starting quarterback Cory Blake and fullback David Spinner, who will anchor the North Lincoln offense as seniors. Paul Regan and Scott DeLuca will help round out the wide receivers. Maness said there are four athletes he is considering for the wing positions, but whoever winds up starting will have to be focused on the team as whole.
“They’re not the fastest people in the world but they have character and they’re guys you can depend on to take the football and do what they need to do,” he said. “Our offense is going to be focused on the team, not the individual.”
The Knights will likely have another season with a relatively young team, despite senior leadership in the offensive backfield. Many of the players at practice so far have been underclassmen and rising ninth graders. The most promising of those young athletes appear to be the potential linemen, who have the necessary size, but now have to be molded into varsity-level football players.
“It takes time to develop a lineman to be big and strong enough to be physical,” Maness said. “It’s who we are, and we’re going to have to be patient and try to bring them along. We have to try to walk before we run, keep building and get better and build on positive things.”
North Lincoln focused on strength and conditioning during the opening weeks of summer practices before moving to the practice field to run plays this week. The team travels to Spartanburg for 7-on-7 drills today, but Maness said Tuesday’s practice was the best of the summer so far.
“We did some good things,” he said. “We’re starting to get a good feel for what we’re doing, we’re putting some things together.”
Maness worked for many years as an assistant coach at several schools in South Carolina, and said he saw the opportunity he was looking for in North Lincoln — a young school without a football tradition that has “nowhere to go but up.” The state of North Lincoln football after last year’s difficulties means the coaching staff is focused on bringing together the team as a cohesive unit before worrying about its opponents.
“There’s only one thing we can control, and that’s North Lincoln,” Maness said. “We can’t let North Lincoln beat North Lincoln. If anybody else does, we’re going to have to make them take a long, hard road to do it. We can’t help them out any, we can’t afford to do that.”