METTER -- It wasn’t all that long ago that the Metter Tigers were a perennial football powerhouse. Now, with a new coach and new schemes, the Tigers are set to turn around a program that has seen its share of struggles recently.
After a successful stint as the offensive coordinator at Fitzgerald, Mike West now rolls into Metter looking to make his mark in his first stint as a head coach.
West replaces Clay Hill, who compiled a 7-33 record in four seasons as Metter’s head coach, but was able to lock down three wins last season.
“Coach Hill definitely left the program in better shape than he found it,” said West. “There are a lot of guys returning from last year who are ready to pick things back up and continue with the task of improving this program.”
After many successful runs, Metter struggled when it moved to the AA classification of the Georgia High School Association. Now back in single-A, the Tigers are more competitive, but still searching for a postseason appearance.
To achieve that, West’s first goal is to make sure everyone is on the same page and committed to improving the team’s fortunes.
“We had a very good numbers this summer as far as people doing all of the lifting and conditioning that they were supposed to,” said West. “I think that speaks to the leadership that we want our seniors to provide. Right now we have 56 guys on the roster that are putting forth a lot of effort.”
In order to capitalize on the strengths of this year’s roster, West has ordered wholesale changes to the schemes on both sides of the ball.
Under Hill, the Tiger offense operated out of a high-flying spread formation that often utilized four wide receivers and rarely had more than five linemen set on the line of scrimmage.
This season, Metter will set up in the Wing-T formation that West has had success with at Fitzgerald. Bumping in from his receiver slot last season is Dean Eason, whose lightning fast speed will create a threat from the running back position.
While senior quarterback Pete Nagel might not throw as often as last season, he still will be depended on to keep the chains moving and could find himself to be even more dangerous in a more balanced attack.
“The Wing-T is an offense that you can do a lot out of,” said West. “The most important part is having a good offensive line, which we feel we have in senior center Matt Conner and juniors Matt Hughes and Rico Kelly. That will really set the tone for letting us move the ball, either with the pass or with the run.”
Defensively, Metter is switching from a base 50 set to a 3-5 front. Personnel-wise, the biggest change in this shift is for All-Region star Devin Dekle, who moves from defensive end into a linebacker slot.
With fewer on the line and more playmakers lurking just off the line of scrimmage, the Tigers hope to be more active in forcing pressure on opposing offenses.
“We want to have a very aggressive and attacking defense,” said West. “We want our guys to hit the line with a head of steam and really make it difficult to block us.”
There is plenty to improve on for Metter, and the learning curve for the new offensive and defensive styles is likely to be steep, but West is confident in his team’s ability to get itself back on track.
The Tigers get their first chance to see how the new styles match up August 20 as they travel to region rival and perennial power Johnson County for a scrimmage.
“We just want to see all out effort for 48 minutes,” said West. “We want to see everyone concentrating on their assignments. There will be some mistakes, but we want to see everyone going hard. Once we start to get assignments down, we’ll cover up those mistakes and the wins will come.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.