Business as Usual at Magnolia

NEW MARTINSVILLE – We don’t rebuild, we reload.

That’s the message painted on the wall in the Magnolia football team’s locker room and it’s also how first-year coach Josh Sims feels about his squad.

”We have a lot of skill guys,” Sims said. ”We have a lot of speed. We have three linemen returning that do a heckuva job. If we can find those few more linemen, I think we’ll be fine. We have a lot of speed running around and our quarterback, Nick Priem, can throw it to them.”

While the Blue Eagles may be reloaded after an 8-5 campaign that ended with a loss to Greenbrier West in the West Virginia Class A state semifinals, they’ll be young.

Magnolia will have only three seniors on this season’s squad. Sims noted the one with the most experience among the trio is the kicker, Oscar Clendon.

”It’s going to definitely be a sophomore- and junior-run team,” Sims said. ”We’re young across the board.”

The good thing for Sims and the Blue Eagles is they are currently in a three-week practice period where the rookie head coach hopes to instill fundamentals in his young team.

”It’s been a good turnout,” Sims said. ”The only problem is, you got a guy on a vacation here, a guy on vacation there, so you can’t really put in any plays or system type stuff. You just have to focus on the fundamentals and the football skill aspect. One day we’ll do routes, next day we’ll do handoffs, another day we’ll do (defensive back) work. It’s been good.”

Sims noted the playbook won’t derive much from when long-time coach Mark Batton ran the program. The Blue Eagles will still run a 4-4 defense, while the offense will put on multiple fronts, including the wildcat which Magnolia turned to during its playoff run.

Priem, a sophomore, already looks the part. He was listed last year at 5-foot-10, 180-pounds, but has noticeably grown during the offseason. Kyle Ritz, a junior who fits in the H-back role, has gotten quicker and will play a big part in what Magnolia tries to do offensively. Sims also pointed out the team has a couple freshman recievers who will turn heads with their speed.

”I’m confident in the players here,” Sims said. ”I think this is a good group. They’ll work hard. You can tell by them just coming here.

”(Wednesday) when we were practicing, I stretched them out and I said if anyone wants to stay after and do a little bit more work, that’s fine. I made it optional because you don’t want to burn these kids out in the summer. We had almost every guy stay. That shows you the commitment there.”