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Berkeley starts anew under old, familiar face

August 26, 1998|By BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

"Glory Days ..."

For reasons well known to new Berkeley Springs football coach Larry Shumaker, he whistles that old Bruce Springsteen tune each morning on his way to work.

It fills his head and fuels his drive.

It is almost a plea, of sorts, to be able to return to a time when his defensive units at Smithsburg High took on all comers - and by the time the crisp, fall afternoon had turned to gray, his Leopards had usually dominated the competition. Twice he helped Smithsburg win the Maryland State Championship.

"Glory Days ..."

Today, Shumaker, in his second stint as a head coach, faces his biggest challenge as he prepares to lead a team low on numbers and experience at some key positions into the 1998 season.

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Last year, as the school's newly appointed vice-principal, the veteran coach watched as the hapless Indians struggled week in and week out, finally exhausting themselves in an 0-10 finish. And although he didn't know it then, he would be getting the nod to come back a few months after the close of the season.

He was needed to help stabilize a program left in disarray by the resignation of the entire coaching staff and a loss of enthusiasm among several experienced players who decided not to show up this year.

"What I saw last year was a bunch of hard-nosed kids toughing it out week in and week out and just not having enough to get over the top," Shumaker said of a team that may be a little overscheduled with some tough dates against Frankfort, Moorefield, Keyser and East Hardy. "So now, I am starting over again from scratch."

What an understatement.

Shumaker, who has been involved with programs at every level, knows there are several ways to build a program back to respectability, but he also knows it all must start at one basic level.

"The players first have to believe in me," he said. "They need to know I am able to deliver the things I promise them, but first, they must commit to being better."

Shumaker insists the Indians can achieve that level of respectability this year.

"We can put a good squad on the field that can represent this community with pride and dignity," he said. "Dedication and organization is the key."

Though low numbers and inexperience haunt the squad, Shumaker is not disappointed. "I told our players I am concerned with who is here, not who decided not to show. I can't promise we will win every game, but I can promise they will become football players."

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