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Martinsburg lifting hopes, weights in 1998

August 26, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Playing football at Martinsburg High School has become more than just strapping on pads and helmets and hitting the guy across the line.

In the old days, that's all it seemed to take for the Bulldogs to win games. But now, after a couple years of losing and turmoil, it's not a game anymore.

Nope. At Martinsburg, football is no longer a game. It's an investment.

"The kids have worked real hard in the off-season," said Martinsburg coach David Walker. "When they put their own time into it, they are more disciplined. The more time they put into it, the more they care."

Suddenly, games aren't games anymore. They're a chance to earn dividends. The season turns into a portfolio of sorts.

But, most of all, the Bulldogs' investment of time might be the best way to get past the distractions of the last two years, both on and off the field. The players' main off-season investment came in the form of weightlifting, which was a relatively unheard of function at the school.

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"The main thing that weightlifting added was strength," Walker said. "One of the big reasons is to help prevent injuries. Last year, we had a lot of kids dinged up. But it will help make the kids more physical and makes them care more because of the sacrifice involved."

Walker begins his second season at Martinsburg and continues the team's evolution from a wide-open, run-and-shoot passing offense to the more controlled run orientation of the wing-T.

"I'm pleased with the way they have picked the system up," Walker said. "They are a lot further ahead than they were last year. They are remembering everything from last year. This year all we have to do is explain things and drill it and they pick it up. Last year, we had to walk through a lot of things."

Gone this year are quarterback James Franklin and receiver Jason Dirting, who were considered Martinsburg's main weapons last year. But Franklin left the team during the season, and Dirting was slowed by injuries, taking the luster off the Bulldogs' chances and slowing the team's transition under Walker.

But in a sense, it helped the Bulldogs realize that it will take a lot of hard work to get the school's winning tradition back.

"Last year, the kids rallied around and realized that it takes 11 players to win a game," Walker said. "One player is not going to get it done. I think this year the kids know what to expect and know what I expect of them. And since they know me, they know that they can expect me to do everything I can to make them a success."

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