NuMINE — Last year, West Shamokin snapped its WPIAL-record 46-game losing skid and finished the year with three wins, a turnaround that spurred then-defensive coordinator Jon McCullough to plot a playoff run for the Wolves in 2013.
McCullough envisioned himself pushing the defensive buttons for a fifth straight season under the guidance of Josh Gilliland, West Sha-mokin’s head coach from 2009 to 2012.
But when Gilliland decided to step away from the team for personal reasons in the offseason, McCullough accepted what he saw as a priceless offer to coach a group with which he’d already formed a galvanizing bond.
“I looked at it as a great honor and a great opportunity to step in and take on this role as head coach,” McCullough said. “We’ve got an outstanding group of kids here that I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know the last four years as defensive coordinator. Plus we’ve got a great staff.
“Everyone’s just putting in the necessary work that’s required to take this program to the next level. Don’t get me wrong: We have a long way to go, but we like what we see so far. We have a chance to have a pretty decent team.”
McCullough pointed out that he and Gilliland instantly clicked because they agreed on potential goals when they were hired in the midst of a dire dilemma in 2009.
“When we came in, the team had suffered through two straight winless seasons. We really just wanted to try and set a foundation,” McCullough said. “We wanted to set a foundation and then really try to change the entire culture of this program. We’re on our way. We’re not there yet. Getting that win last year was big, but that’s really the only thing that carries over for us this year.”
With eight starters returning on each side of the ball, McCullough admitted that he and his staff didn’t make many major schematic tweaks in the offseason.
McCullough slightly altered his defense from a 4-3 look to a 4-4, with the main components remaining intact.
The Wolves will still use a Wing-T look offensively, and they’ll still rely heavily on their punishing fullback, Zac Horner, and their shifty tailback, Andrew Wingard.
However, McCullough said he’s always willing to improvise, and if the situation calls for it, the Wolves could become a pass-happy team at times.
With the emergence of junior quarterback and returning starter Alex Lasslo, McCullough felt comfortable tailoring parts of the offense to the strengths of his signal caller.
“We’ll be a heavy run team, but above all else, we’ll do whatever we need to do to be successful,” McCullough said. “If need to throw the ball 30 times a game to win, then we’ll throw it. If we don’t throw the ball, and we’re able to run the ball, then we’ll do that, too. Each week could be different. We’ll do whatever the game dictates for us to do, and we’ll do whatever it takes to win.”