Carnell Henderson is aware of the burden he’s placed on his Woonsocket assistant coaches. The head coach, who continues to come along after undergoing surgery in early August to repair a torn tendon in quadriceps muscle of his left leg, knows that just like the players have to step up their game whenever there’s an absence, so too does his staff.
The idea is to keep things as close to the status quo as possible until Henderson returns to the sidelines, which he is optimistic will happen this season.
“We’re trying to keep the ship afloat,” Henderson said. “A lot of adjustments had to happen. Everyone on the staff always had a role. It was just a matter of who was going to be the voice of the team.”
The first time Henderson laid eyes on the 2011 Villa Novans was at practice last week. He sat in the stands at Pierce Field with a headset on during last Friday’s 42-0 non-league loss to East Providence. Henderson did not call a single play, instead relaying his observations to George Nasuti, the school’s athletic director and former WHS head coach.
“It’s difficult not even knowing the kids I’m calling the plays for. I might see something that works, but I don’t know the personnel to put in that situation. Trusting the system is the role I have to play right now,” admits Henderson. “Last Friday was a chance for myself to learn who’s out there and where the coaches heads have been these past three weeks.”
As much as Henderson yearns to assume a greater role, he knows that he can’t accelerate his rehab timetable. In the meantime he figures to make good use of the golf cart provided to him whenever the Novans practice at Dunn Park or play games at Barry Field.
“The good thing is that it’s never been just about me, which is the way I coach,” Henderson said. “I’ve always been the head coach in title and have had the final say, but in terms of a change, the only change is that final word at the end of practices or games.
“You don’t want there to be five guys always talking. We still need to get back to who that one person will be. Being back around them now, I’ll be much more involved in the coordination of the game,” he continued.
Mixed reviews on fifth official
Last week a story appeared about the addition of a back judge to the high school football officiating circuit, boosting the number of on-field officials to five.
Now that teams have taken their non-league tests, the time seems right to procure some feedback. Taking cues from a door-to-door salesperson, we went up and down this newspaper’s coverage area to ask head coaches to offer their two cents on the additional set of officiating eyes.
As expected reaction was all over the map, ranging from skepticism to a welcomed addition to ambivalence. Some coaches expressed concern, while others are taking the attitude that it’s far more important to devote energy and focus into preparing the players and executing the game plan – not how many enforcers of the rules there are.
“Once you get on their bad side, forget it,” said a head coach who wished to remain anonymous, “but there are some good guys.”
“It’s like having an extra coach on the field,” added Burrillville head coach Gennaro Ferraro. “If you have an extra official, it should be better for the game. Now you have guys in the right position to make the call.”
“I think it’s better in that the linesmen can stay down on the line and not have to peel off as quickly as they used to and get down in the secondary,” furthered Sandy Gorham, East Providence’s head coach. “I think that will help out on pass interference calls. Sometimes when you’re running, you don’t see the full play so you can’t throw the flag.”
“For them to do the best job they can do, that’s what I’m asking for,” remarked Cumberland head coach Chris Skurka. “If five [officials] is what they need, that’s what they need. If that’s what gives us the best game, than that’s what I support.”
The coaches did find common ground when broached about the benefit of having the back judge raise his hand when five seconds remain on the play clock. It’s a most helpful cue that should remove any and all guesswork that offenses may have since the play clock is for the most part not electronically visible at fields around the state.
“Say you want to run the clock out and call a timeout with one second left, [the back judge putting up his hand] is a great way either if the offense is in hurry-up mode or to make sure you don’t get a delay of game penalty,” notes the same nameless coach.
Some coaches felt it was important to impress upon the secondary and receiving corps the need to make smart decisions whenever in close proximity to the ball.
“We can still hit a kid beyond five yards; it’s not like college or pro rules,” Gorham said. “With the additional official you’ve just got to be careful when you’re going up for the ball not to push off or push away.”
Other coaches are choosing not to make this a big deal, the reason being that the players need to focus on the task at end, not whether the officials do or don’t blow the whistle.
“We haven’t even discussed it at all,” Skurka said. “We’re just play football and not worrying about what the officials are going to do.”
Making up for lost time
The Lincoln High football team went from the day before Hurricane Irene struck (Aug. 27) to the day following Labor Day (Sept. 6) without conducting a single practice. The rest of the fall sports programs were also in the same predicament due to a decision made by the higher-ups.
When the Lions finally reconvened, head coach Dave Waycott thought he and his fellow coaches would have little choice but to revert back to Week 1 preseason rules, when players are permitted to engage only in non-contact drills. Such pragmatism gave way to a refreshing development after Waycott saw the Lions back on the field and display better memory-retention skills than he originally anticipated. That, he says, is a credit to the collective unit.
“After a quick review they were off,” Waycott said earlier this week.
The unexpected layoff came with an additional price with Lincoln having to forgo its Injury Fund game. That in turn placed additional emphasis on last Friday’s non-leaguer with Shea High, a game that saw the Lions race out to a 14-point halftime command before falling, 22-20.
“The Shea game was our scrimmage and Injury Fund all wrapped up into one,” Waycott said. “Just like the kids need practice so too do the coaches, but that’s usually worked out before the first game.”
As pleased as Waycott was with how the first half of last week’s game went, he was also realistic. The Lions were being asked to play a four-quarter game after being reintroduced to football-related activities only a few days earlier.
“The biggest problem we were facing is that everyone was cramping up,” Waycott said.
Now that the Lions have settled into a normal rhythm, Waycott can go ahead with a normal practice schedule leading up to Friday’s Division III opener at East Greenwich. If anything, the frantic days of playing catch-up leading up to the Shea game helped him get a better sense of what direction Lincoln is heading in.
“We’ve thrown a lot of stuff at them where every now and then I have to slow down,” Waycott said, “but I definitely like what I’ve seen so far.”