UNION CITY – The Mississinawa Valley Blackhawks football team is coming off a 0-10 season last year with optimism that they can turn things around in 2016.
New head coach Mike Griffin takes over as the third coach in three years at MV and hopes to bring stability to the program moving the Blackhawks forward in a positive direction.
Griffin has a football pedigree and is no stranger to the game with coaching stints at Richmond High School in Indiana, Fairborn High School and most recently at National Trail where his son was the star quarterback, leading them to their first ever playoff appearance.
Griffin, who also serves as athletic director, is aware of where the program has been and the challenges in trying to turn it around.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “I’m a realist and know the reality of the situation, and I’m excited for the opportunity to prove to the naysayers that it can be done.”
The Blackhawks numbers have improved from last year with 29 boys on the roster.
“We would love to get 35-40 guys out in the future,” Griffin said.
Much like a lot of the new coaches in the Cross County Conference who are looking to use the spread offense and utilize skill players, Griffin wants to be a 60-40 pass to rush type team.
“The Cross County Conference traditionally goes through Covington, Miami East and Tri-County North, and we want to be at that level down the road … but right now we need to learn how to compete and beat a lot of the middle tier programs and work our way up,” Griffin said.
“In order to compete we need to change some things by cleaning up the mistakes we’ve made in the past through discipline. Last year we were in games and then would make mental errors or turn over the football and take ourselves out of the game, and that won’t get it done,” Griffin said.
“We’ve got great kids, and they have been receptive and working hard,” Griffin said. “We can’t make them more athletic, but we can expect them to be more disciplined, play harder and control the things we can control.”
Offensively the Hawks are still evaluating but have a mix of returners and new faces competing for spots.
Right now the quarterback position is being contested by four kids – seniors Andrew Johns and Perkins, sophomore Trent Collins and freshman Cody Dirksen – and they each bring something a little different to the table.
“I’m trying to give them all plenty of reps to evaluate because this is a very important position to me,” Griffin said. “I want a guy with the best characteristics who can lead, makes the right decision and get the ball out of his hands quickly.”
At wide receiver is senior JJ Howard, junior Noah Hopkins, and new to the team this year is senior Brandon Beanblossom.
In the backfield returning is Nathan Gladdish, Noah Hampshire a big power back and Dylan Rammel in the slot position.
“Defensively we will line up in a 4-4, and we got our linebackers a little more trained and expect them to play more disciplined than last year. We have two defensive co-coordinators and two more coaches than last year, and that helps tremendously to help coach them up,” Griffin said.
The Blackhawks will open up their season with cross town rival at home with Union City at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26.