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New Pioneers coach Haymore relishes challenge

Josh Haymore, Millbrook's new football coach, will rebuild the Pioneers football team after losing 21 seniors from last year's squad. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

2013 Millbrook Pioneers (Buy photo)

By Brad Fauber

WINCHESTER -- Josh Haymore faces a tough challenge in his first season as the head football coach at Millbrook as he must fill the gaping voids left in the wake of the loss of 21 seniors off last season's squad.

The Pioneers return just four players with significant varsity experience from a team that went 6-5 and made the playoffs a year ago, and Millbrook lost key pieces from all over the field, posing an obstacle that Haymore admits has been the toughest part of the 2013 preseason.

Still, Haymore -- who replaced former Millbrook coach Reed Prosser -- is upbeat about his first season at the helm, and initial impressions of the Pioneers have given Haymore plenty of reason for optimism.

"We've been practicing hard. I think with the seniors that have stepped up to be leaders, they're showing a lot of excitement in practice, they're running around full speed," Haymore said in between practices on Aug. 15. "When they get in there and the chinstraps are strapped up, they're turning it on. First impressions are good."

Millbrook's roster of 53 players has hit the practice field hard as the Pioneers gear up for the 2013 season. Players energetically moved from drill to drill during a recent practice, and enthusiasm ran rampant amongst the players and the coaching staff whenever a play was worthy of praise.

That enthusiasm, which is a staple of Haymore's coaching style, is something that has been eagerly embraced and accepted by the current crop of Pioneers.

"He brings a new enthusiasm to our team, he gets everyone psyched," said senior defensive end Jonathan Crowley, who tied for the team lead with 99 tackles last season. "You can tell he's happy to be here, so it makes us all happy to be here too. His enthusiasm I think means the most. I like that."

Haymore's enthusiasm and love for the game was on full display on Saturday, Aug. 10, the first day high school teams were allowed to conduct full-contact drills in full pads. Rather than wait until the next Monday to hold the first contact practice, Haymore held a 90-minute session at midnight that Saturday morning under the lights of Millbrook's stadium.

Haymore said the idea was something that he took from coach Brad Lutz at Broadway, where Haymore served as an assistant for the past two years.

"I just thought it was a new tradition for this place. They've never done it before and I want to bring in a lot of new traditions," Haymore said. "I know [Prosser] was very successful here and went to the playoffs a lot ... but I think we need to get a little bit more tradition. And maybe those traditions will get us a couple more wins in the playoffs or a couple more wins in the regular season. I love football, and I love these kids and I just want them to have a good time."

If Millbrook hopes to make a return trip to the playoffs this season, the Pioneers will have to have some new faces step into some important roles.

On offense, Millbrook must replace its entire offensive line, as well as find replacements for former quarterback Justin Neff (2,200 yards and 21 touchdowns, both school records) running back Justin Anderson (1,222 yards, 13 touchdowns) and wide receiver T.J. Bruce (44 catches for 876 yards, 12 touchdowns).

Haymore was not willing to name a frontrunner or even name the players are that are competing for the quarterback spot, but he did say the competition is between two seniors and a sophomore, although one of them has been injured and has fallen to the back of the pack.

"The two that are healthy are competing -- they are neck-and-neck," Haymore said. "It'll be down to the wire to make that determination, because I know there's a controversy there, it's just a matter of who can take that pressure when guys that want to rip their heads off are on the other side of the ball."

The running back spot is also unclear, with about five or six guys competing for the opportunity to handle most of the carries for Millbrook, according to Haymore.

On defense, the Pioneers do return some experience, with Crowley, senior defensive back Taylor James, senior linebacker Devon Sharp (87 tackles) and junior linebacker Dylan Wisman (74 tackles) all coming back.

"Defense wins championships, so we're just coming out trying to be the hardest, most physical, fastest defense out there," said James, who recorded 31 tackles and an interception last season.

The Pioneers open their 2013 campaign on the road at Broadway on Aug. 30, and Haymore and the rest of the Millbrook program will get its first glimpse of how well some of the younger players can fill in to their new roles.

"We lost seniors, but it's not like it hasn't been done before. Teams have come back, and that's what we're here to do," James said. "We'll find people to do the job. The younger people, we're teaching them, so they're growing day by day. We'll just put people in there who can do the job."

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com


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