Brian Hoffman began his seventh season as head coach at Hubbard High with a 49-12 victory over Lakeview. The Eagles have made the playoffs in five of Hoffman’s six seasons as coach. Including his stint, Hubbard has made the playoffs in 11 of the last 14 seasons.
The Eagles play their home opener tonight against Girard at a newly-refurbished Memorial Stadium which now includes field turf.
Q. In your mind what are the most important factors in a football program maintaining success year after year?
A. It probably begins with your younger grade levels, being able to reach those kids and have them have positive experiences early on. Especially when they are younger, if they get a bad taste in their mouth it’s usually hard to get them back. I would say you need coaches in your program, especially at the younger grade levels, who are great motivators, who make it fun for the kids and obviously are teaching correct technique and fundamentals. Most importantly they are energetic people who help word of mouth spread that kids enjoy being in the program. That way you keep those kids around a little bit longer.
Q. How involved are you with the coaches at the younger levels?
A. In my opinion the middle school coaches are all part of our staff. We work together from seventh grade all the way up to the varsity in terms of planning and preparation. We do our best at the varsity level to recognize what those kids are doing and keep them interested.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges to maintaining success year after year?
A. I will say that numbers are down throughout the area and that is a concern to me as a football coach. I think it’s a great game for the lessons one learns, not unlike other sports. But in football there is a lot that goes into it. Eleven players have to be on the same page all the time to be successful. Not only the 11 on the field but the other kids are a big part of having that strong program. You are only as strong as the competitiveness of your practices. If it gets to the point that your kids aren’t getting good looks in practice and it’s not a competitive environment then your program will suffer.
Our numbers this year are not as good as they’ve been since I’ve been here but I attribute a little bit of that to two smaller classes coming through. Right now our junior high numbers are strong and we hope that continues. It (lower numbers) might just be a trend right now. I don’t know if parents are concerned about the concussion aspects, there’s been a lot of attention drawn to that, that may be part of it.
Q. How far in advance do you plan for personnel positioning?
A. We’re not saying a kid that’s playing quarterback in the seventh grade is going to be a quarterback when he gets to the varsity. Kids grow, some faster than others, and their development comes in bursts. We also don’t want to pigeonhole someone and say “you’re doing this” and then three years later they are in a completely different body and playing a new role.
Mostly at that level we just want them to have a good experience, we want them to become fundamentally sound, we want them to learn our system and enjoy playing.
Q. How do you like the progress your team has made this season?
A. It’s still very early in the season. We played well in week one and I think we can attribute that performance to the way we didn’t perform the previous week in our last scrimmage. It was kind of a wake-up all for the players. Our performance wasn’t where it should have been, the players understood that and they prepared much better for the game against Lakeview. Where are we now? It’s early to determine but I feel we have the nucleus of a very competitive team. Our schedule is very difficult, our conference is very challenging and we just have to take one week at a time. We don’t want to look ahead, we just want to try to get better each week.
Q. The AAC American Division seems very balanced and very strong. What are your thoughts?
A. I really do believe that any one of the six teams in the conference is capable of winning it. You have some strong teams with returning experience at Niles and at Poland and Howland returns a majority of its skill from a year ago. Struthers is very good, especially with their offensive line and linebackers. I just feel every week it is going to be tough with games coming down to the wire, which means coming down to your execution and your kids fighting through adversity at times. I really believe that right now it is as even a conference, in terms of parity, as I’ve experienced since I’ve been in this particular conference.
Interview by Vindicator sports reporter Doug Chapin.