Change is in the air for area football programs

LEWISTOWN — If there is one word to describe the current high school football season for our area teams that word would be change.

Three new coaches and a new program debuted last month when Scot Sechler lost the interim tag at Mifflin County, Jamie Brumbaugh took over at Mount Union and Brad Hatter became the first coach in the history of the brand-spanking new Midd-West football team.

The results so far have been mixed but as any coach will tell you, it takes time to build a successful program.

At Mount Union, Brumbaugh and his staff came into the 2018 campaign knowing a retooling project was in the works. The Trojans — 0-3 on the season — lost all-time leading rusher Daunte Martin and a ton of talent from a senior group that made four straight playoff appearances.

“We knew as a staff we would be in a rebuilding situation when we came into this year. We have been a little behind the eight ball from the start and are struggling to get our system in place and it’s showing on the football field,” Brumbaugh said. “As well as having a young team, the majority of our staff is new to the program and almost all of the coaches including myself are taking on new roles. I believe we will get better as a team as we go through the year. I believe the same can be said for our staff.”

Brumbaugh found out quickly how much different being a head coach is compared to being a coordinator.

“I enjoy coaching and I love this game. I had a good experience this offseason. I’ve found the position to be much more of a management type position, there seems to be a lot more work off the field than on it as a head coach,” Brumbaugh said.

It’s tough enough to be a new coach at the varsity level. How much tougher to be a new coach at a first-year program? That’s the situation former Millersburg coach Brad Hatter faces at Midd-West.

Hatter has the Mustangs at 1-1 in their inaugural season. He attributes his early success to a solid philosophy, buy-in to that way of thinking by the player’s and coaches, and total commitment to the program and its values.

“The biggest thing I look at is there has to be a complete commitment and buy-in by both players and coaches to what you’re trying to do. I used what happened at Millersburg to shape me as the coach I’d be if I got another opportunity,” Hatter said. “I developed a philosophy and core values. I shared those with everyone — players and coaches. A winning tradition comes through academic, physical and character development. If the kids buy into that and the coaches do and everyone moves in the same direction toward that goal, you can go a long way to building a solid program.”

Hatter knows there’s more work to be done. After an opening night victory against Marian Catholic, Midd-West found out the hard way how nothing is guaranteed in this game when the Mustangs fell hard to Blue Mountain.

“I feel there’s been good communication. For the most part, the coaches put on a united front with communication. We’ve been able to balance instruction with discipline and the kids are taking to it,” Hatter said. “We have more work to do. Football has a way of humbling you really quick. We were pretty upbeat and confident after winning the first game and then were humbled by Blue Mountain. We’ve been working through those things and the goal is to keep moving forward.

“Overall, it’s been pretty good. We are grateful to be into the season and get in some games after so many extracurricular activities. It’s all good,” Hatter continued. “The kids, the fans, and the coaches are enjoying this. We had so much to do to get ready for the season, but we’re glad to be playing football.”

Hatter believes and is determined to build the Mustang program starting at the youth level. He has a great role model to pattern after in Jim Roth, the legendary coach from seven-time PIAA champion Southern Columbia.

“You have to reach the midget level as well. You have to be visible to the kids, sharing the philosophy and core values, so they know what to expect when they get to high school. Buy-in at all levels is the key,” Hatter said. “Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth spoke at a coaches clinic and said he’s committed to the midget program. Too many midget programs do their own thing. The successful program has continuity from the midget to the high school levels. If the youth know our base plays, that is huge.”

At Mifflin County, Sechler went 2-1 at the end of the 2017 season as interim coach after replacing Brent Hartman, who resigned after going 0-7. This season the Huskies are off to an 0-3 start as Sechler and a new staff learn on the fly. With six games under his belt, Sechler feels he’s beginning to establish a comfort level as the man in charge.

“It’s important to surround yourself with really good people and my assistant coaches are really good, knowledgeable people, who care about the kids. I am more comfortable this season than last, obviously,” Sechler said. “We’re still figuring things out. We have a lot of things to clean up. I’m always happy but never satisfied. We have to learn to play a full four-quarter game. We can always do better and we’re going to strive to be the best. We’re going to keep plugging away until we get there. If we keep working hard good things will happen.”

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