Most first-year head coaches take over programs with the cupboards bare, usually needing to go into rebuilding mode from Day 1.
Spencer Davis has not entered the typical situation.
The former Manlius High School standout quarterback has returned to his hometown to coach the Bureau Valley Storm this season, and former head coach and current athletic director Jeff Ohlson left plenty of toys for Davis to play with.
“It’s a talented group, there’s no doubt about that,” Davis said. “But they also practice hard, play hard, and work hard in everything they do. Mix that in with an exceptional senior class in terms of experience, and you’ve got a really good mix.”
That mix also helped make for a smooth transition from the old regime to the new one. Davis hasn’t noticed any speed bumps at all; he praised the Storm players from a strong summer session, and sees an energized group hungry to snap a 3-year playoff drought.
But the Storm’s enthusiasm on the field is a reflection of their new coach. Davis said he’s “happy to come home,” and his players are happy to be suiting up for him.
Practices have become fun for the BV players, mainly because the coaches don’t stick to the same script every day.
“It’s kind of on and off, some days big on defense, and other days focused on offense,” senior fullback/defensive end Tommy Johnston said. “We mix things up, which keeps us on our toes, and I like that a lot.
“The transition feels pretty smooth, and it’s getting better and better every day.”
While it’s a new voice barking out orders and directing the Storm through drills, things aren’t too terribly different in Manlius. Davis realizes the talent he has at his fingertips, and has the Storm playing to their considerable strengths.
That’s something the second- and third-year BV starters greatly appreciate.
“His style works well with our skill set,” senior quarterback Parker Neuhalfen said. “It was a little different at first, but after a while, we got used to it; it didn’t take very long. It’s still football, and we’re focused on getting ready for the season.”
With two big pieces coming back at the skill positions – Neuhalfen led the Storm in rushing (835 yards, 12 TDs) and passing (800 yards, 9 TDs) last season, while Johnston ran for 634 yards and nine TDs and caught 17 passes for 354 yards and three scores – it’s going to be up to BV’s offensive line to open holes in the run game and give Neuhalfen time to throw in the passing game.
But that’s not something the Storm are too worried about.
“We work well as a team, and it’s not about any one guy individually,” senior linebacker Josh Mead said. “There’s an ethos we go by, and that hasn’t changed; we have confidence in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.
“Our leadership is through the roof, and the younger guys are good followers. We’re shooting for the best, obviously, and that comes from pushing ourselves day in and day out to get better.”
Did you know?
• Each of the last two head coaches at Bureau Valley led the Storm to the playoffs in their first seasons. Dave Moore coached BV to a 14-0 record and the 3A state title in 2005, while Jeff Ohlson’s first team went 10-2 and made it to the 3A quarterfinals in 2008.