When Jeff Wood interviewed to fill the vacancy as Bedford s football coach near the beginning of the year, he laid out his master plan.
He made some big and bold statements. He offered insight with his proposal. He displayed plenty of enthusiasm about wanting the job.
Perhaps most significantly, Wood expressed a desire to change the way the Mules had represented themselves on the field in recent years.
We went old school, and they ve bought into everything we ve done, Wood said.
Among the changes implemented by the former Mules defensive coordinator are cosmetic. They switched from wearing metallic silver helmets to plain red helmets with the horseshoe emblem on the side. Wood also called for them to wear only black cleats to finish off the old-school look.
I thought the retro look would look pretty good, he said. Everybody wears black cleats because we wanted to look slow, but we really aren t slow.
The Mules also don t appear to be the same team that finished last season with only three wins, including one by way of forfeit.
At 5-3, Bedford heads into its final regular-season game with plenty to play for, unlike this time last year. A victory over Chelsea in a Southeastern Conference clash tomorrow would not only give the Mules a share of the title, it would also insure their first playoff berth since 1990.
Bedford is averaging 31 points per game, while allowing 20 per game.
The complete makeover in appearance and play is something Wood envisioned. If anyone is surprised by how quickly it changed, he s not among them.
You can say we re ahead of schedule but when I was asked the question about turning around the program at the interview I said I thought we could win the Southeastern Conference this year, said Wood, whose team is 3-2 in conference play.
He s created some excitement in the community with what the kids are doing and how the kids are playing, said Bedford athletic director Bill Regnier, who was the coach the last time the Mules earned a playoff spot.
Wood was already familiar with the team and its returning players 15 letter winners (11 starters).
He implemented a few significant scheme and personnel changes.
The Mules overhauled their offensive playbook. Out went the spread offense and in came the veer attack.
Bedford senior Nathan Davis, a 5-foot-11, 195-pounder, handles the quarterbacking responsibilities in a scheme that relies heavily on running the ball.
I love this offense so much more, said Davis, who has rushed for more than 500 yards and thrown for another 458 yards. It s my type of offense. It s better than the spread.
My freshman and sophomore year I was a running back, so I like running the ball. It also messes with the defenses because if we can run the ball it opens up the throwing.
Wood felt Davis was the perfect fit to run the new offense.
He s one of our captains and he s a solid leader, Wood said. He s great to coach because he cares about doing well.
Doug Harmon, a 5-11, 195-pound senior, has also been a key contributor in the offensive game plan. The power back, who deadlifts 550 pounds and squats 450 pounds, has gained 878 yards on the ground (5.6 yards per carry).
If you tackle him with one guy, he s dragging you for three yards, Wood said.
Harmon, who spent most of his time at defensive end last season, welcomed the opportunity to contribute on offense. He shares playing time at right defensive end with his twin brother, John.
I love playing on offense, Doug Harmon said. On offense you get the hardest hits.
[When carrying the ball] I like to go right through defenders. It s a lot bigger hits.
Davis, Doug Harmon and Joe Martin are tri-captains.
Martin said this year s team came together during a three-day getaway to a resort prior to the start of two-a-day practices.
Family is the most important thing around here, said Martin, a 5-8, 170-pound senior, who plays receiver, returns punts, punts and plays in the defensive secondary. We all have T-shirts with the word FAMILY spelled out in big letters and the word me spelled out in little letters.
Everybody cares about getting the wins and no one cares about their stats.
Defensively, the Mules are led by defensive end Nick Whitenberg, a 6-3, 195-pound senior, and linebacker Steve Roland, a 6-2, 195-pound senior. Both have recorded 50 tackles this season.
Wood believes the Mules have enough players in place on both sides of the ball to make tomorrow s game a perfect ending to the regular season, and the perfect beginning to the playoffs.
If we play good on Friday, we ll be tough to beat, Wood said.
Contact Donald Emmons at:email@example.com or 419-724-6302