KINGWOOD — It’s a proven fact successful high school sports programs do not suddenly emerge with a special star athlete, or a strong senior class, or loads of talented underclassmen. All of those are key components of a fine team — but building a sustainably successful program starts much earlier.
Newly installed Preston football coach Mark Deep knows all about building at the beginning — he’s been involved with the county’s middle school football program for several years. And now that he’s running the show at the top, he’s ready to find out just what his work several years ago has helped produce.
“It’s definitely felt a little bit like a homecoming for sure,” Deep said. “I’ve coached probably 80 % of the kids on our team at some point when they were back in middle school, so I’ve really enjoyed reconnecting with them, seeing what fine young men and fine football players they’ve become.”
As Deep has evaluated his Knights during the three-week flex time, as well as fall practice and scrimmages, it’s been clear reintroducing some of the terminology and techniques from the past has been fairly seamless for most of the team.
“Coach Deep was my position coach back in middle school,” senior defensive tackle Tyler Jeffries said, “so I knew what to expect from him. He’s made the transition a very comfortable process for all of us, even as we are changing things up. It’s just great getting a chance to get a different perspective on your game and how you play. It’s made football a lot more interesting and challenging for my last year, but I can’t wait to put what I’ve learned into action.”
Although he’s now coaching many of his former middle-schoolers at the varsity level, Deep is making sure that every Knights player knows that expectations are going to be very different.
“I think this first year is going to be critical for us,” he said. “There’s a different mindset and different culture, a total mindset change that everybody involved with the program has to embrace. I certainly hope we don’t, but we may find out that some players aren’t willing to do what it takes to be successful — learning the playbook, commitment to fitness, extra work in the weight room. There’s a price you have to pay to play football the right way, and that’s what we expect.
“For us to build Preston football into what it can be is my full responsibility, starting the day I accepted the position. When I first got the offer, I took the weekend to really consider what I was about to do, because I wouldn’t have said yes unless I was fully committed. The people of Preston County will rally around this football team on Friday nights — all we have to do is play a good, solid, tough, committed style of football, year after year. That’s what we’ve been trying to grow here for years, and I promise you that we leave it all on the field every time we suit up.”
“It’s a privilege to coach these young men,” Deep said, “and it’s our job to help them remember that it’s their privilege to play at Preston.”