New Coach Brings Swagger to 'Stangs
Consider North Moore on board with current trends.
The Mustangs recently participated in their first 7-on-7 passing league tournament, not just of the summer, but in the history of their football program.
As they left the field after a respectable showing against cross-county rival Pinecrest's No. 2 team, first-year head coach Greg Simmons could be heard telling players, "Don't you know we're supposed to be in awe of these awesome athletes in front of us?"
Evidently not. The Mustangs left the field the same way they arrived - with a silent swagger that's been missing from the program since back-to-back winning seasons in 2004 and 2005.
Simmons is the man who's been charged with bringing North Moore back to respectability, no easy task considering he inherits a program that posted a combined 5-36 record over the last four seasons and competes in a conference that's among the best 1A football leagues in the state.
"We've got to take baby steps and be able to play a little football in practice before we can start worrying about competing with the big boys," he said during a recent interview. "The way we're approaching it, that we're not worried about who we're playing as much as we're worried about how we're playing."
One of those "baby steps" was participating for the first time in a 7-on-7 scrimmage, an increasingly popular format where schools field teams of offensive and defensive units during the summer months leading up to training camp. The teams play other schools in passing league games that basically amount to touch football.
"We're trying to give these kids a taste of what it's like to hit the big-time a little bit," said Simmons, the former defensive coordinator at Northwest Guilford High School. "Some of these kids had literally never even seen a 7-on-7 before."
Another step will be the team's mini-camp, which runs July 26-29 from 5-8 p.m. That leads into the start of training camp on Aug. 2.
One thing the team does not discuss much right now is its schedule for the upcoming season, a tough slate considering four of the first six and six of the first nine games are away games.
"Right now, we're just worried about us, and our focus right now is taking care of us and taking care of what we can take care of," Simmons said. "Whoever they roll out in front of us is who we're going to play."
Six of eight Yadkin Valley Conference teams qualified for the Class 1A postseason in 2009, including undefeated 1-AA state champion Albemarle and 1-AA semifinalist West Montgomery. The only two teams from the conference that didn't make the players were North Moore and the only team the Mustangs beat last season, Chatham Central.
"Teams go through phases where they get things rolling a little bit and you get some continuity, and continuity plus athletes equals good teams," said Simmons. "That's what you've got with some of our top teams in this conference, and it's tough to crack into that.
"Hopefully five or six years down the road, they're saying the same thing about North Moore."
Simmons likes to talk about the newness of the program at North Moore, which is partly correct.
The team will play and practice on the same fields, but it will play under new lights and dress in a new, state-of-the-art field house.
Simmons has brought with him a new offensive line coach in Jason Kennedy, a former Mustang player, and other new coaches could still be on the way. But the coordinators will remain the same - Brandon Reynolds will continue to coach the offense while Mike West will continue as defensive coordinator.
Senior quarterback Xavier Scotton is the favorite to be back under center when the Mustangs kick off their season Aug. 27 hosting Princeton, and Simmons thinks he's got some talent to fill out the offense.
"The offense we're putting in is kind of designed for a quarterback that can roll a little bit," he said. "The expectation is that we've got some athletic kids who can play quarterback and running back, that we'd like to utilize with the spread."
As for right now, though, the Mustangs' focus is solely on improving, both individually and as a team.
"It's not even a rebuilding process, it's building everything new," said Simmons. "We're changing everything, so it's going to take a little time to do it. Until we can get to the point where we're comfortable with what we're doing, then our focus is going to be on us."
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