James Buchanan comes off winless football season

August 30, 1999|By DAN SPEARS

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - First-year James Buchanan football coach Kevin Gustafson looked up and thought, and then thought a little more.

Finally, he found the answer he wanted - "I don't know."

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The question wasn't about the recent drought or world politics, just how many defensive starters his new team had back.

But it's a telling sign at how fast Gustafson and the Rockets want to forget an 0-9 record in 1998.

"I didn't want to look to back at last year's tapes," he said during the team's picture day. "And I'm not going to."

He knows what he's missing. The Rockets gave up 476 points in nine games last season and were admittedly out of it by the end of the first quarter.


"I don't think they had a whole lot of fun," Gustafson said. "They'd give up an early touchdown and then they would really get down on themselves.

"We talked about it. ... They need to take pride in everything they do now: practice, school, whatever. That's something that has been missing here."

So after a stint as assistant coach at Chambersburg, the JB alumnus has returned home. And he admits he packed up more than just his old pictures and staplers when he left town.

"The defense is Chambersburg's, and the offense is Chambersburg's, with a few other things thrown in," Gustafson said. "It may be a change with these kids, but they've been practicing it real well."

The systems may be new, but some of the faces are familiar.

Eric Stoner returns at slotback, and Matt McKenzie will stay in the tailback position all season after trying everything last season.

"Matt will be the tailback in the (I-formation)," Gustafson said. "He bounced around a lot and really didn't like being at quarterback at all, so he's happy."

He'll also be running behind an offensive line that returns three starters in Jeremy Stine, Brandon Hutchinson and Ron Ramer.

On defense, Stoner and McKenzie anchor the secondary, and Ramer will be back on the defensive line.

It doesn't sound like much, but the Rockets have a roster of 35 players this season, one of the school's biggest turnouts in years. It gives Gustafson a shot at figuring out who's going to be able to do what in the Mid Penn Colonial.

"We've got some guys that we can rotate in this year," Gustafson said. "But defensively, we've got to step it up. With (those points allowed), you're not going to win many games that way."

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