When Daniel Finn took over the South Brunswick High School football program in 2014 he knew he had his work cut out for him. The 2013 season had been winless, but the veteran coach pulled his troops together in a tough 3A/4A conference and was able to remain competitive throughout his first year as leader of the team.
With some excitement building around Cougar Country heading into his second full season, he believes the commitment and dedication is coming into focus as the team takes in the final few weeks of practice before the start of the regular season.
“We still have a long way too with making sure we’re giving it our all, but I think it’s already 100 times more from last year going into this year,” said Finn. “We’re moving in the right direction and need to keep building. We’re making steps, have guys more committed and we saw that during our summer workout program.”
South Brunswick captured a pair of victories in league play during Finn’s rookie year on the sidelines and now the focus starts to turn to keeping a level of consistency to match up against not only their two in-county rivals, but the 4A programs in Wilmington.
“Last year we started off and took one on the chin against Wallace-Rose Hill,” Finn said. “It was a tough week of practice following that because I think our guys were looking for things to change instantly with a new coach, but our guys responded. We didn’t get the win in week two. We saw improvements and then in week three we finally broke through.”
Coming off a 4-8 season and 2-4 mark in conference, with a pair of setbacks by a combined four points, the Cougars understand it’s going to be the little things throughout the course of a game and season that makes the biggest difference when it comes to grabbing victories under the lights on Friday night.
For that reason, Finn has put a focus on remaining mentally strong on the field and in practice, keeping heads up during the tough times and not letting success build too much overconfidence week to week.
“Our kids saw that spark early in the season last year and winning definitely brings a new attitude and excitement,” Finn said. “The main thing is to be focused week in and week out and keeping a level head during the course of a season is really important. Learning the kids, seeing what they do under the lights was real big for me last season as a first-year coach so hopefully this year I have guys in positions that better suit their talents that’ll help this football team.”
South Brunswick has a mix of youth and experience looking to make an impact this year and Finn is confident that his group is learning what it takes to make the next step across a tough landscape for his 3A program.
Robby Watkins has turned some heads at the quarterback position. Josh Carter has made some big gains in the weight room at hopes to provide stability in the backfield, while seniors Omar Jones and Jacob Ashley hope to hold down the back end on defense.
“It’s huge for those guys and our senior class to put in the time and work during the offseason,” said Finn. “Kids are going to do what their buddies do and the leadership some of the older guys have shown this year with their work ethic makes my football a little easier and gives the younger players something to strive for.”
On top of their grueling schedule against teams from inside the Mideastern Conference, South Brunswick will also take on North Brunswick in a rivalry game on September 11, with the programs first trip south of the border to face Conway (South Carolina) in the annual Carolinas Kickoff Clash on August 27 in Myrtle Beach.
“One of the things we’ve focused on this summer is getting stronger and conditioned,” said Finn. “During this offseason we’ve really concentrated on getting that commitment needed to compete at a consistent level. We’re extremely excited to get on the field especially for the young kids as we kind of throw them into the fire to see what they can do.”
The Cougars will play in two scrimmages this week, including the BB&T Jamboree, with four additional practices leading up to week one of the regular season.
South Brunswick 2015 schedule
Friday, August 21 @ West Columbus
Friday, August 28 @ Conway (Myrtle Beach)
Friday, September 4 vs. Pender
Friday, September 11 vs North Brunswick
Friday, September 18 @ Fairmont
Friday, September 25 @ Hoggard
Friday, October 2 vs. Laney
Friday, October 9 @ West Brunswick
Friday, October 16 vs. Ashley
Friday, October 23 @ Topsail
Friday, November 6 vs. New Hanover