Football Preview 2016: Stone eager for challenge that awaits at MMA

Pete Stone, center, Massanutten Military Academy's new head football coach, prepares to start a drill with his team during a recent practice on the school's football field in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Pete Stone said he had the chance to take on another job.

A football coach for seven years at Lubbock Christian School in Texas, the last three of which he spent as the team’s head coach, Stone could’ve gone to a public school and returned to his previous post as a high school defensive coordinator. In fact, that was what he envisioned his future held.

But the Waynesboro native realized he wanted something else, and a passion pulled him back to the Shenandoah Valley and to Massanutten Military Academy, where he will coach the Colonels on the football field this fall.

“I, quite frankly, enjoyed being an assistant coach and for about half the money I decided my passion was about coming back to this part of the world, being in a military school, working with these types of kids and rebuilding,” Stone said after a recent MMA practice.

Drawn by the prospect of returning closer to home and his 90-year-old mother after spending 24 years in Texas, Stone began picking around for vacant coaching jobs throughout the local area. His search led to him perusing the football schedule of Fishburne Military Academy (Fishburne’s head coach, Chip Hill, was the defensive coordinator at Stuarts Draft High School while Stone attended there, he said), and he eventually happened upon the football coaching vacancy at MMA.

Athletic director Michael Campbell, who was hired by MMA in April, made Stone one of his first hires later that month and considers the school lucky to have drawn a coach like Stone.

“He was a perfect fit,” Campbell said. “He knows the military school. He knows the situation.”

Indeed, Stone is pretty familiar with the military school atmosphere – he attended Virginia Military Institute for three years and served in the United States Army for six, and his father was the former superintendent at Fishburne, he said.

What is unfamiliar to Stone, however, is the state of MMA’s football program. Stone said while at Lubbock Christian he and his team enjoyed consistent playoff appearances, and the Eagles went 5-5 in his final season in 2015. He now inherits an MMA program that has won five games in the last four years.

For Stone, that was all part of the allure.

“That’s one of the things that was really appealing about this job, the opportunity to really build something from the ground up,” he said.

A self-proclaimed football and baseball junkie – he will also coach varsity baseball at MMA in the spring – Stone said he never played on the gridiron before being hired as the defensive coordinator at Lubbock Christian seven years ago.

Stone enjoyed what he called “a really good coaching staff” while essentially learning how to coach the sport on the fly in Texas, and said he began developing his own coaching style by starting at the teambuilding phase, something he took from his days in the Army.

“It’s just like anything else, you just study and work at it,” he said.

Stone added that, in his experience, a lot of really good football coaches are the ones who have had limited playing experience in the sport.

“A lot of guys that played football at a high level have never been on a team where you had to teach kids how to put their chinstrap on,” Stone said. “You know, (former MMA football coach Buster Davis) last year, great guy. He played at a 5A high school, he played D1 football, played in the NFL. He’d never been around a team where you had to teach kids how to put the pads in their pants. So it’s a different skill set. Small-school football is awesome.”

Stone is eager to get the 2016 football season rolling at MMA, when the Colonels travel to Quantico on Friday. But he knows the rebuilding process won’t be a quick one for a team coming off an 0-10 season, its second winless campaign in three years.

“There’s not gonna be a miracle here,” Stone said. “There’s not gonna be a Disney movie here.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com