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Longnecker put 'Cats back on winning path

Washington County Football Coach of the Year

Washington County Football Coach of the Year

December 12, 2009|By MARK KELLER

All-County Football Offense

All-County Football Defense

From the day he accepted the job as Williamsport's head football coach before the 2009 season, Randy Longnecker made it known his focus with the Wildcats would not be completely on football.

"Xs and Os are important, offensive and defensive schemes are important, but I think the big thing is building relationships," Longnecker said. "Kids want someone who cares about them, they want to know that you're with them, more of a father-type figure than a peer closer to their age."

Longnecker's philosophy was to focus on fundamentals and discipline, facets of the game which would lead to wins, something the Wildcats have been lacking for years.

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The philosophy worked as the Wildcats finished at .500 for the first time in a decade and remained in the hunt for their first-ever playoff berth into the final week of the season.

For those reasons, Longnecker was selected as The Herald-Mail's 2009 Washington County Football Coach of the Year.

Longnecker got a bit of a late start implementing his philosophy with the Wildcats. He wasn't hired for the position until March 2009, following the resignation of previous coach Adrian Custer. The team also lost about a dozen players who weren't buying into Longnecker's program before the season began.

"We took a step back at the beginning. We put a lot of focus on discipline and put down some rules and we lost about 12 kids who thought they could just show up the first day of practice and not put in the work," Longnecker said. "But any time you try to change the culture of a program, you're going to have that. The ones who were there and stayed with us saw that we were honest with them and did what we said we would do."

In reality, the Wildcats were just a couple plays away from getting that elusive first playoff berth. Close losses to North Carroll, Boonsboro and Smithsburg -- the latter on the final play of the game -- helped show Williamsport players how far they had come and far they had yet to go.

"We did all the right things in those games, had good drives late and we didn't finish," Longnecker said. "That's the last piece we needed to put together, the mental toughness to finish games.

"The good thing is the kids coming back next year are already looking forward. They're talking about unfinished business."

The 5-5 record that the Wildcats finished the season with was about what Longnecker expected.

"The goal was 5-5 and we met that," Longnecker said. "The bigger picture was we wanted to come together as a team and I think we met that goal, too."

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