The Sussex County Warhawks finished the 2005 season on a sour note, losing their last two games in a late season playoff push, to the cellar dweller Kent County Fire and the Talbot County Warriors.
With her team plagued by inconsistency on offense and an overall lack of dedication, Warhawks owner Tina Dennis has some changes in mind for next year’s team.
“We’re looking for players who want to play football and players we can count on,” said Dennis.
In the season finale, only 13 of the Warhawks 34 registered players suited up for the game. The lack of participation at practice and (alarmingly enough) in games has pushed Dennis to cut unreliable players for the upcoming season.
“It always gets like this at the end of the season, ever since we last made the playoffs (2001),” said Head Coach Butch Yocum. “Guys don’t show up for the last game if they aren’t in playoff contention. It’s frustrating, especially when you’re losing to teams you should be beating, like the Warriors and the Fire.”
By missing practices and games, the Warhawks put themselves in a position to lose, no matter how talented they were. Chemistry is built over time, and not in a parking lot before a game with a group of guys scrawling plays in the sand.
“What some of these guys don’t understand is that to win you have to be at practice to build a feel for each other. They have played football for five, six, seven years, or where they were a superstar in college or high school and think they know everything. The pros practice almost year-round to get the level they’re at,” said Yocum.
When players miss practice — or games for that matter — others are thrust into their positions, whether they are prepared or not.
“We had a lot of guys play out of position because guys didn’t show up. I’ve had to play a bunch of positions to fill in,” said Yocum, who pitched in at quarterback, wide receiver, long snapper, punter, safety and linebacker during the 2005 season.
Yocum actually hung up his player’s cleats last season and had grown accustomed to calling plays — until his team started to unravel — and then he had to make plays.
Yocum filled in for his absent starting receivers (James Maddox and Andre Matthews) and was able to pull down two receptions in the 24-0 losing effort against the Warriors.
Dennis and Yocum will spend the immediate off-season blanketing the Sussex County area to recruit skilled and determined football players. The Warhawks will hold registration for the 2006 season in August, at a date to be determined. All interested individuals must live in and have a current address in Sussex County to qualify for the team.
“There are a lot of athletes in the area who won’t go on to play in college and still want to hit some people, so we’re hoping to get them on the team,” said Yocum.