New Wolfpack pigskin coach ready for challenge
Crawford County’s new football coach, Alan Hess, knew he had a challenge ahead of him as he took the helm of the program a few weeks ago. Last season, the Wolfpack started out with 23 players and finished with just 17 when they lost to Southridge in the sectional.
Hess already knows about handling adversity. After graduating from Tell City in 2003, he went to Indiana State University, but things didn’t work out, and he transferred to Urbana University in Ohio, where he played football for four years. Hess then moved to North Carolina, but that didn’t work out as well. After moving back to Tell City, he talked with former Crawford County coach Greg Gogel, whom he had played against in high school. Gogel told Hess about the opening, and the rest is history.
‘They were looking for somebody to come in and change things,’ Hess said. ‘I hate losing. ‘ We’ll make it work.’
With the team being so thin last season, Hess’ first order of business will be to get the number of players up to a more acceptable level.
‘You’ve got to get numbers,’ he said. ‘We’ve got to get our athletes playing football. Ideally, I want 50. If I can get 40 or 50 kids, we can have a JV program. If you can start winning at the freshman-sophomore level, you don’t have to bring freshmen and sophomores up (to varsity). Eventually, it will trickle down and affect you all the way down to your junior high. All of sudden you have a program.’
Hess said Paoli went through the same scenario five years ago and this year will probably be the one to beat in the Patoka Lake Athletic Conference.
‘Go back five years, and they were in the same shoes we are,’ he said. ‘They had 20-some kids out and had been getting beat up every Friday night. They’ve bought into what they’re doing. They’ve got a great program up there right now.’
One thing working in the school’s favor is the youth football league. Last year, more than 60 fourth- through sixth-graders took part in the program. That was enough to create four teams within the grade school system.
‘It’s always good to see the young kids playing football,’ Hess said. ‘You don’t want to start them too young, but you don’t want to wait too long. ‘ We need those kids to continue to play in the junior high into high school.
‘The coaches need to be out in the public seeing those kids when they play their games. I need to be going to as many games as I can myself. My assistant coaches need to be at as many games as they can. We need to be public figures and show those kids who we are and we care about football and we want them to keep playing.’
Hess said he has already started the job of getting more high school players involved in the game, with some of those players already beginning strength programs in the school’s weight room.
‘I’ve called kids,’ he said. ‘I’ve met with the basketball team. The moment I arrived from my plane flight from North Carolina, I pulled out my sheet on my drive home and made a phone call.’
‘I have to do what I can to get these kids to play,’ Hess said. ‘No one wants to lose. No one wants to get their brains beat in every Friday night. It’s a terrible feeling. They haven’t learned how to win yet, but they know how to lose very well. That mental attitude is going to be one of the hardest things to overcome.’
So, what can Crawford County fans expect to see on the field itself? Hess said he will start by keeping the ball on the ground.
‘We’ll be wing-T, old-style wing-T, double-wing, single-split,’ he said. ‘You’ll see some different variations from that but not a lot. We’re not real fancy. We’re going to run the ball and, when we’re tired of running the ball, we’re going to run the ball some more. They only say three things happen when you throw it, and two of them are bad. There’s a third one that we don’t talk about and that’s ‘I get fired’.’
‘I’m not opposed to (passing),’ Hess said. ‘I like creating a mentality of downhill aggressive running. I want our kids to get that attitude, ‘We’re going to hit you hard for 48 minutes and, when you get knocked down and when you knock us down and we have to get out, we’re going to pick you up or get ourselves back up and we’re going to do it again. We’re going to do it until the final whistle blows, and we’ll shake your hand and meet you at midfield.’
‘Hopefully, it was a good game. Whether it’s a win or a loss, you always want to see a good game and we’ll come back at you again next year, and the following week you’ll see the same stuff.’
Hess also has several ideas to keep the community more involved and bring more people to the games.
‘We’re going to do canned food drives at ballgames, help out the community,’ the new Crawford County coach said. ‘We’re going to do a veterans appreciation day to let people know that we appreciate what they’ve done for our country and for Crawford County and for our freedoms. Little things to get people to come out, and, hopefully, we’ll translate that onto the football field and not be terrible and they’ll want to come back to another game. Kids will get in free if they wear their youth league jerseys, obviously if accompanied by a parent. Just little things to try to get the community involved and get more people out.’
Hess has a five-year plan of having his team competitive for a sectional title. The Wolfpack must first find their way over some very big humps, and three big ones come early in the form of a road trip to rival North Harrison and two home games against conference foes Perry Central and Paoli.
‘It’s going to be a challenge,’ Hess said. ‘There’s going to be a lot of long sleepless nights and a lot of long aggravating days and a lot of long Friday nights and Tuesday practices, but that comes with it. The reward is that one day we’ll all wake up and remember being a part of when it was bad and how we got to be good.’