KINGWOOD — After coming off of a tough 2021 campaign that left the Preston football team with a record of 1-8, head coach Mark Deep, his staff and their players are aiming to do two things: Get better and gain experience.
The Knights return only eight seniors this season and Deep said the rebuild is moving right along.
“Most of the rest of the roster will be made up of freshman and sophomores. Our players have made great strides in the weight room this offseason,” he said. “We hired a strength coach and he has done a great job with our players. Our goals are to be more competitive. I believe with the work they put in during the offseason we will see that carry over on the field this fall.
“The three-week practice period was great this year. It was a lot of reviewing and not installing a totally new offense and defense like it was last year. It’s always great to get the kids back on the field and coaching. The offseason is long, so the kids were excited to get back out there and keep building on the end of last year’s season.”
What the Knights have going for them early on is the schedule they will play. The first three games for PHS will be at home. A season-opener against Hampshire will begin the season on Aug. 26, but they will see some tough matchups throughout.
“We have a very competitive schedule. I think we play six teams that made the playoffs last year and two of them were in the semifinals (Bridgeport and University) and Fairmont Senior won a state title, so it’s a tough schedule when you are trying to build a program, but it will be a great measuring stick to see where we are at in year two,” Deep said.
“Not one game stands out from others for a coach, if you talk to the players, I’m sure one does. But as a coach, they are all important. Hampshire is our first game so that one stands out to me then every week it will be our next opponent.”
Despite only returning eight total seniors, Deep said he is confident in his players to do be competitive and get the job done. One area that will be a strength will be the defensive line. Two of those eight previously mentioned seniors line up at defensive end. Addison Miller and Ethan Harper will look to make an impact for the Knights. Miller will return to the team after suffering a season-ending ACL injury just two games into last year. Nick Banks also joins PHS after transferring from Musselman.
“We have five returning starters on defense. Logan Specht is returning on the outside and he led us in turnovers and sacks last year with six. We had a transfer Nick Banks from Musselman high join us this summer and we are excited to see him play our weak safety position,” Deep said. “At corners, we have two starters back in junior Riley Land and junior Dillon Taylor, who will transition from weak safety to corner. Seniors Addison Miller and Ethan Harper will have great impact for us at the DE positions.”
Deep praised his team for the pride they feel wearing the uniform for PHS, and what it means for them to set an example.
“We talk about it all the time what it means to put on the black and silver uniform. The kids take a lot of pride wearing that uniform. We talk about being leaders in school and how we need to set an example in the school and be held at a higher standard,” he said. “The players have bought into the vision of what we want to become on the field and how we are going to get there as a team. It takes hard work and dedication. We have a great foundation, but we need more kids that want to be a part of it.”
“Football means a lot to the community and we have great support in Preston County. I said it last year, if we can put a competitive product out on the field on Friday nights, Knights Stadium will be packed, that’s what we are striving for and the community support has been great.”