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Preston football coach Mark Deep ready to move into year 2 without COVID hiccup

KINGWOOD — Coaches will tell you that their teams make the greatest amount of progress from Game 1 to Game 2. 

Unfortunately, for Preston football coach Mark Deep’s first season last year, his Knights never really got that chance. 

“COVID really hit us hard,” Deep said. “We had several players out in our first game, then we had to cancel Game 2, played with just 22 in Week 3, then could play the next two games. We could not even practice until the end of September. Yeah, it was tough going up here.” 

Think about what a first-year coach, with new playbooks on both sides of the ball, a new coaching staff, and a completely new philosophy, needs the most for his team — practice reps and game experience. Yet for the Knights, much of that critical installation time was stripped away due to the pandemic. 

However, Deep is definitely a silver-lining kind of guy, both in terms of what his team accomplished and what the season revealed. 

“We lost big to some very good football teams, like Bridgeport, Fairmont Senior and University, but so did a lot of other schools,” he said. “We had a 1-point loss to Washington, we were right there with North Marion, and we lost by six to Brooke, so we were competitive in plenty of games despite our health issues. And that was while starting five freshman at the end of the year. That kind of varsity experience for underclassmen can be very important for a building program, because there really is no substitute for experience.” 

The young Knights should be much more comfortable with the base 4-2-5 defense Deep installed last year, as well as the multiple offense that will again feature an I-formation rushing attack mixed in with RPOs (run-pass-options) and reads. But while this year’s team will be quicker and more instinctual, Deep discovered during his first year at the helm a glaring weakness — literally — as well as a potential solution. 

“We were a big team last year,” he said, “but we simply lacked strength, and we were going to make sure to address that issue right away. We hired Dave Cox to be our strength coach and challenged every kid to follow the program over the winter and offseason. It’s not enough to go to the gym — you have to work really hard to make a significant change. And the kids have bought in, and we can see the difference.” 

Senior offensive guard and strong safety Logan Specht has noticed as well, and he’s encouraged. 

“Our slogan this year is ‘We Not Me’,” Specht said, “and it feels like the guys are working so much harder in practice, helping each other improve every day. Each of us is taking responsibility for doing our own job, and trusting that the guys next to us will do their job, too. That trust is huge for a football team. Huge. 

 “The combination of knowing the systems much better and the team coming together makes me feel like things are gonna be different. I know people have heard that before, but we like what we’re building here, and we can’t wait to see what we can be.” 

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