MORGANTOWN — Morgantown head football coach Matt Lacy knows a lot about rebuilding.
As the Mohigans graduate 18 seniors, including critical pieces at nearly every position group and many locker room leaders, he’ll look to put that experience to use. This time, he’s counting on his offensive and defensive line to help set the process in motion.
“That’s where it all starts. We want to be a run-first football team. We need guys that we can run behind and get some yardage and be a successful running football team. A priority of our defense is being able to step up and control the run — we need big guys who can fill the gaps and move people and stop the run,” Lacy said.
“We want to have those guys in the trenches we can rely upon.”
When Lacy took the reigns in 2016, his first season couldn’t have been much more of a success. The Mohigans cruised to a 10-3 record, with two losses coming to state champion Martinsburg, and fought their way to the Class AAA state semi-final.
Then came the tough part — losing 22 seniors, many of whom played critical roles on the team. The rebuilding process was about to begin. The next season, MHS limped to a 4-7 record and bowed out in the first-round of postseason play.
“I liken it back to my first year as a head coach. Next year, we’re only going to have 11-13 lettermen returning, and a lot of them got that just playing special teams,” Lacy said. “Some of these juniors and sophomores — even freshman — are going to have to step up.”
Two potential leaders Lacy has is mind are juniors Marcellus Marshall and Tyler Wilson — two-way linemen who saw their fair share of action in the trenches this fall. He hopes the two can establish themselves as leaders and help build a line that can lead the charge for the team.
“The biggest challenge for the upcoming year is someone stepping up and leading. I myself have accepted that challenge,” Marshall said. “That means holding my teammates accountable and pushing them harder than they have ever been pushed. If we can get everyone to give all their effort to what they are doing, I have no doubt we can have a very talented team.”
Marshall talked about the importance a line that can lead the way for their team, and what he and his fellow lineman can do to step up and play at the level required.
“When a team has a strong line to work behind, good things happen,” he said. “Our lineman next year will be the hardest workers on the field and lead by example for the rest of the team.”
While Lacy certainly hasn’t been displeased with his line’s performance in recent years, he did discuss some of the advantages he thinks his upcoming group will have and how he expects it to benefit the team in the long run.
“We probably won’t have as much size, but we’ll be a little more athletic than we have had the past few years. It comes down to the steam they bring.,” he said. “These guys are going to have to bring more angles. We can pull some guys more than in the past and getting guys to the corner faster. That’ll be a benefit.”
Of course, before anyone gets carried away with how successful this group will be, there’s one thing that has to happen, and both Lacy and Marshall weren’t shy in bringing it up.
“They’re gonna have to live in the weight room and want to get stronger. That’s where the game is won and lost — on the line. We need these guys to be good in this area,” Lacy said.
“The weight room this offseason is what will help us succeed. We have size and talent but we are never strong enough,” Marshall added. “It’s all got to start in that weight room if we want to rebuild what we are losing.”
With that being said, Marshall also wasn’t shy about one other thing — he’s battled alongside, and against, his returning linemen for awhile now, and he has little doubt that they can be the anchor MHS football needs in 2019.
“I’ve played against these guys coming up every day at practice and I truly believe they can fill these shoes,” he said. “Getting my guys ready for next August isn’t going to be easy, but I know they can get the job done.”