The Liberty High School football team will be seeing a few new opponents on the gridiron this season.
"Well our schedule has changed and we picked up more Big 10 teams, and I think it's imperative that we start off on the right track," said Head Coach Robert Shields. "We open up at East Fairmont then we turn around and play RCB. We've got to somehow have confidence to get in there and know that we can compete against two teams dropping down from ‘AAA' to ‘AA'."
The Mountaineers may be looking across the line of scrimmage at a new faces, but Liberty fans will see familiar players on the field in 2012.
"Of course, obviously, we've got Ty Noss, Jimmy Pumphrey, Jalen Bartley and Devin Raper. We've got some nice sophomores that are showing promise to play out on the perimeter for us on both offense and defense," stated Coach Shields. "We've got some new coaches that we've added on. I think the kids, they get along real well. This is a good group."
"A lot of leadership out there," commented senior Quarterback/Safety Ty Noss. "A lot of new talent that is coming up and we also have a lot of letterman that are going to step up this year."
"I want to be a leader but you know, we're a team," said senior Tailback/Safety Jimmy Pumphrey. "We all try to pull our part and do what we can."
Numbers are down. Coach Shields said he normally gets about 40 players on his roster. This year the Mountaineers are at about 30. The drop has caused the Liberty coaching staff to take a few precautions in preparation for the season.
"Moving some kids around on the offensive line and trying to rotate to where we can get eight or nine men on the offensive line. So if you're a guard, we're having you snap and be a center and vice versa," explained Coach Shields. "The tackles are basically staying the same and maybe one or two of them are dropping down to play guards. Same thing with our tight ends, we've got them working at tight end, also working at full back position. So we're trying to just be smart in case injuries would occur, so we won't miss a beat throughout the season."
The Mountaineers lost several good lineman from the 2011 squad but both tackles and the starting tight end form the offensive line are back.
"Probably be a good bit like last year," said Noss. "Hopefully we're a little more disciplined this year, win a few more games. The goal is playoffs every year."
"Just trying to get our right steps and blocks and stuff and just bringing it in after that," explained senior Tackle Michael Cody.
"We're working on footwork, technique, thinking on your feet. We're not trying to do as many making the calls for them. We're making them make the calls and then we'll correct them afterwards. If they make a mistake, that's on the offensive end," said Coach Shields. "On the defensive end, I think we're a little bit ahead of the game, but once again, we've got to find a couple of kids to replace those guys and it's hard to do it when you have limited kids out on the field to practice against."
With nine seniors, several four-year letterman and other veterans back, Liberty will also try to even out the work load.
"I think we'll have a good receiving corps, definitely a strong backfield because everyone is returning," said Noss. "Hopefully we'll have a pretty good line. We've got some good lineman coming back."
"I don't want Ty to have to carry the ball as much as he carried it last year. He carried the ball 162 times," recalled Coach Shields. "I think the biggest thing is, is just trying to mix it up and keep people off balance."