Welcome Brandon Sammons to the world of being a high school football head coach.
Your first assignment, state powerhouse Clinton-Massie.
“We approach this game as the biggest game on the schedule, just like every week,” said Sammons, who took over the BHS program following the resignation of Jack O’Rourke. “We just get a longer time to dwell on this one week.
“They have a great program with really good football players who are tough, hard nosed, and very physical. We will definitely see what kind of toughness and strides are kids have made. This is a great measuring stick for us right out of the gates. I tell our team they have to prepare their tails off and be ready. This one game doesn’t define our season, win or lose we have 9 more plus playoffs, hopefully, that have to be played, so we focus one week at a time.”
Blanchester and Clinton-Massie play the 52nd Cider Keg game Friday night at Barbour Memorial Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Clinton-Massie was 11-2 last season and lost to Bishop Fenwick 10-3 in the Region 14 championship game.
“Our leaders are the seniors and juniors who have a very bitter taste of how things turned out in the regional championship game against Fenwick,” said McSurley, 185-53 in his Clinton-Massie tenure. “I think everyone, including myself and the coaches, believe we let that game slip away.”
This season’s matchup is the final schedule game between Blanchester and Clinton-Massie. The two teams have met 51 times with the Falcons holding a 33-18 lead in the Cider Keg series. Clinton-Massie has won the last nine meetings, including a 51-7 triumph a year ago. The Wildcats have scored just 21 points in the past nine meetings.
“With this being the final keg game, we would like to keep it at Massie forever and that has been our focus this summer,” McSurley said.
The Falcons will be healthy heading into the opener, a focus of the coaching staff throughout the summer.
“Friday should be the first time we will have everyone healthy and in positions that they will be in for the majority of the season,” said McSurley. “The pre-season has been about getting different players ready for various roles that could occur. We think we have back-ups in every spot and that was the goal throughout two-a-days.”
The CM coach said defending Blanchester’s spread offense is about one thing.
“With all the spread teams that we will face this year and Blan running the spread, it’s about bringing as much pressure with the front eight as possible,” McSurley said. “On defense Blan runs a traditional 4-3.”
For Sammons and the Wildcats, 3-7 in 2015, one key to keeping things close Friday night will be intensity.
“Our intensity hasn’t been anywhere near where I would like it, so we have been playing around with how to fix that,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
A lack of intensity could lead to yet another lop-sided Clinton-Massie victory, the norm over the past eight seasons.
“(Clinton-Massie is) tough, and physical; disciplined,” Sammons said. “ They do what they do and believe they will out-physical you and out-hustle you all game long. It will be a grind Friday night.”
Sammons said quarterback Tristan Greene has taken on an obvious role in leadership, but players like Hunter Collier (RB/LB), Nick Hopkins (WR/DB), Austin Jennett (WR/DB), Jared Monhollen (WR/LB), Dylan Fawley (OL/DL) and Marcos Torres (OL/DL) have stepped up from a senior perspective, but we’re seeing quiet leadership from some young guys fighting for spots and showing some grit in Cody McCollister (OL/DL), Tavor Mowry (WR/DB) and Brent Hopkins (RB/DB).
“We keep progressing. a little forward, a slow down, press forward, a little slow down,” said Sammons. “We’re getting better, no where near where I would like to be in a perfect world, but that’s why I was brought in. It wasn’t perfect, so we’re trying to find the right mix and the right blend.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports