Two-a-days began Saturday and for two new coaches it could not be here soon enough.
Elida’s Kyle Harmon and Allen East’s Joel Billings are taking over their respective football programs and are eager to implement their brand of football and prepare for the upcoming season.
The two coaches find themselves in different scenarios.
For Elida, Harmon takes over a program that was mired in controversy and went winless last year.
For Allen East, Billings takes over a program that is coming off what might be considered the best season in the program’s history, finishing with a share of the Northwest Conference championship and making its first playoff appearance in team history. The Mustangs finished with a 9-2 record.
Despite the two programs in different stages both coaches are optimistic about the future.
Harmon, who has been working with his team throughout the summer in workouts adhering to the Ohio High School Athletic Association guidelines due to the coronavirus, is coming off football camps with his players and is encouraged with what he has seen. Elida was able to workout a little sooner due to the school opening up early.
“The first couple of weeks I met with the guys we started talking about the weight room,” Harmon said. “A lot of guys knew me and what I was all about, and it was a pretty easy transition. We met, and the numbers have been good, and our weight room numbers have been good, and participation is going up.”
The transition has also been fairly smooth for Billings as well. He has spent the past six years at Allen East.
“It is a pretty good opportunity for what we have coming back,” Billings said. “The state of the program is good and that kind of pushed me to do it.”
Billings adds the summer has been productive as they try to follow the guidelines.
“Attendance has been really good, and I feel like we have got a lot of work in without being able to do seven on sevens but I feel pretty good where we are at as far as having things installed and getting some quality reps in during the camp days,” Billings said.
Harmon is looking to turn the Bulldog program around and said these are the first steps in getting Elida back to its winning ways and said he feels he has the right personnel and players to accomplish this.
“You know last year I don’t feel they were an 0-10 football team, and there were just a lot of things that happened over the course of the season. There is some talent here, and things just kind of snowballed over,” Harmon said. “They competed in some games. They were coached up but things didn’t just go their way. We are trying to get the mentality that we are always here, and we are always going to work, and right now we are preparing for week one.”
On the other hand, Billings takes over a squad that went 9-2.
While Billings is not looking to change much, like Harmon, the two coaches are looking to bring their own brand of football to each program that results in wins.
“They respond to the philosophy well,” Harmon said. “They are showing up. They are working hard. We are going to try to be a little more run oriented this year and be more physical and not as much finesse as they have been in the past. We are bringing in a new defensive scheme and will be a little more aggressive. A little more higher level of concepts. They are buying in and they just want to play.”
Billings said he wants to continue what the Mustangs did last year.
“I just look at it as a change from year to year and our schematics are based on the personnel we have,” Billings said. “We are not going to make any tremendous changes but I look at who we have coming back and trying to put our guys in the best position to win.”
Because of the pandemic, the two coaches know there is a lot of work to be done and the preparation for the season is made even more difficult with the cancellation of preseason scrimmages.
Harmon said that the setback actually began in March when during the off season he felt the the team was making a lot of strides in the weight room but that came to an end when the school closed. Despite that Harmon adds the team forged ahead during the summer.
“We’ve had some longer practices, and the kids are working extremely hard and obviously not having seven on sevens (against other schools) is extremely tough in knowing where are personnel is at,” Harmon said.
Billings echoes Harmon’s concerns about evaluating personnel without seven on seven competitions and competing within the confines of the team.
“The kids have done a good job this summer, and it has been a lot of learning with schematics and what not. I feel like we are in a pretty good spot.
“It is different when you go out and compete against somebody else,” Billings said. “It is a little different atmosphere and a little different feel so we are missing that.
With two-a-days beginning Monday for Harmon he said they are going to go strong until Aug. 11 when school starts and then dive into film of their practices.
“They are going to be coached hard,” Harmon added. “We got to get our guys here all the time, and they have to buy into the offense and defense and buy into the system and understand the concepts and develop some leaders with the upperclassmen.”
Billings said he is looking forward to two-a-days and getting into pads and continue prepping for the season.
“We are just keeping getting ready and fine tune some of the timing,” Billings said.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.