Empty hallways were filled with the clang of weights meeting racks at Midway High School last week with preparation for football season in full-swing. With performances at the Harnett County Jamboree fresh on their minds, the varsity team was busy reviewing film as they analyzed themselves ahead of week one.
Head coach Cory Barnes was leading the study session with plenty of advice for his players. Midway will be returning 11 starters from the 2018 season, seven of which will be on offense. That means plenty of new faces on defense for the Raiders this year to go along with a new scheme.
“We’re a 3-4 team now” Barnes said. “I think that’s going to get our players in better positions and help us defensively this year.”
The 3-4 scheme is in reference to the front seven players on the defense. In this particular style, three linemen will be on the line of scrimmage while four linebackers will patrol the middle of the field. Whereas in a 4-3 defense, there would be four down-linemen and three linebackers.
“I think at the jamboree we showed some flashes of a better defense,” Barnes said. “We still have a lot to work on since it’s something different from what we did last year. Ultimately, I think it will lead to us getting some kids in a better position to be successful.”
Last season, Midway finished with a 4-7 record, including 1-5 in the East Central 2A conference, leaving them next-to-last in conference play. Many of the games were shootouts with the Raiders having to rely heavily on the offense to keep them competitive. In those contests where the opposing team had solid defense, the results were not favorable for Midway with scores like 68-0 against Wallace-Rose Hill and 50-8 versus Clinton. Barnes is hopeful they can turn that around.
“Overall, the kids are playing faster and thinking less. I’m pretty excited about what we’re doing defensively and hopefully we can keep building on the things we’re doing from practice to practice into the season.”
Which game is Barnes most looking forward to?
“Union: the first one. We take it week by week. What needs to be important for our guys is focusing on the next because you get beat by looking ahead.”
A few of the Raiders’ seniors shared their views on the upcoming season. An important facet to the team that offensive lineman Dallas Stewart has noticed so far is their team chemistry.
“I think the biggest thing we have worked on is something off the field, and that would be our camaraderie,” he said. “Things like talking each other up when we make mistakes and being able to lift each other up with positive attitudes. This year we’ve made sure everyone’s heads are on right before we take the field.”
Receiver Jaden Covington says he’s noticed an improvement in the offense’s effectiveness as well as his own.
“Our scheme is a lot better,” he said. “We have more experience and explosiveness that should lead to another successful year on offense. We’ve gotten better at catching and securing the ball downfield as well.”
Left tackle and defensive tackle Cameron Calcutt is confident in their long-term success.
“We have an older team this year and we’re trying to be a playoff team,” he said. “We have a young quarterback, but I think this older group can make some noise and make a run in the playoffs this year.”
The Raiders will have an opportunity to display their new defense and take their first step towards a playoff berth Friday at home against Union, a team they defeated in the first game last year 25-18.
Calcutt is eager to prove their mettle.
“Season opener. Senior year. They’re always a good match-up and a good team. We’re ready to get after them and show what we can do this year.”