By Robert Edmonds -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Trust, respect and the genuine care and concern all come to mind when one thinks of family.
That's exactly how senior teammates Nathaniel Earp and Josh Temple described the link between the members of the 2009 Randolph-Macon Academy football team -- a family.
Heading into their third season under the helm of coach Frank Sullivan, the two seniors believe that the relationships players have at R-MA on and off the field will translate into success.
"One of the biggest differences we have versus public programs is that we live with everybody," Temple said. "We are a family and we stick together no matter what. If we fight on the field or in the dorms, we get over it. There is a lot of trust in a family and that is what we are."
"We have been best friends since ninth grade," Earp said. "We have played ball but we also live together and we joke and talk off the field too. We have really become close. It's a big difference [compared to] public schools."
The Yellow Jackets have endured change under Sullivan, who began his current stint in 2007 when he moved to Front Royal from Florida. Now entering his 20th season of coaching, Sullivan thinks the players that have been in the program have developed a sense of trust with each other and with him.
"In any good program, there is a high level of trust," Sullivan said. "Now the guys talk to each other all the time on the field. When I first came here, no one knew me. Now the seniors trust in me. They know I believe in them and respect what I say. Guys that are back from last year know they can trust me. We have two or three new guys this year and they are learning that trust."
Temple, a senior left tackle from Fairfax, wants to conclude his high school career with a winning season. That is a task the Yellow Jackets have been unable to accomplish recently. Last season, R-MA finished the season 2-8 after losing the first eight games.
"Even though we ended the year with two wins, last season left a bad taste in the players' mouths around here," Sullivan said. "I think they are coming back with something to prove. We had a lot of participation in camp this summer. My first year, the guys had no idea what to expect. Last year, they were a little better, but I think we limped into camp. This year I am pleasantly surprised with how well the guys have done so far."
"Our record last year is something we are using for motivation to show that we can do it," Temple said. "A lot of guys from school came here this summer to work with coach Sullivan and everyone worked real hard to be in shape by the time camp got here."
Besides anchoring the offensive line, Temple also figures to make his presence felt on the defensive side of the ball at tackle. Alongside Temple figures to be senior Rashid Oord, who plans to plug the middle and allow the linebackers to make plays.
The consensus appears to be that the linebacking corps will be the greatest asset to the team. With five players who figure to see playing time at the position, Sullivan has employed a style of defense used by Virginia Tech in the 4-4 to maximize the strength of the team.
"On defense, we have crazy linebackers," said Earp, who plans to start in one of the slots. "We have plenty of speed and agility and guys who can definitely make plays."
The incorporation of the 4-4 style is one of the adjustments that Sullivan tends to make based on the players who come out for the team.
"So often we don't know what we have until we get to camp," Sullivan said. "We get guys' names on a piece of paper, but until we see them, we're not sure what we're working with."