A new member is about to be introduced to the Mount Vernon-West Potomac rivalry.
First-year Mount Vernon head football coach Barry Wells will face cross-town rival West Potomac in his debut at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 at MVHS. Wells, who replaced Tom Glynn, faces the task of leading a program that finished 0-10 last season, including a 42-3 loss to West Potomac in the opener, and hasn’t beaten the rival Wolverines since 2006.
"A win Thursday night puts this program on a trajectory that a lot of people weren’t even expecting," Wells said. "What it’s going to mean from a confidence standpoint, you can’t put a price tag on. If these kids come out of the gate and they win that one against their cross-town rival, then I’m going to find out what kind of team I have."
Who is Barry Wells and what kind of team does he have? Wells, 50, is in the consulting business and has been a football coach since 1988, with stops as an assistant in Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is a first-time head coach. He considers himself a defensive-minded coach, but his duties will include calling offensive plays during his inaugural season with the Majors. He takes over a program that won state championship in 1983 and totaled nine victories as recently as 2008, but was outscored 365-129 during last year’s winless campaign.
"We’re not trying to necessarily build a tradition," Wells said, "we’re trying to restore a tradition."
What kind of a coach is Wells?
"He runs the team as a business," senior linebacker and tight end Julien Randolph said. "We all come to practice expecting new stuff every day. We’re more organized and the atmosphere is more positive. We all had our heads down, not knowing what our team was going to be like this year. After we started establishing a new team, making better plays in scrimmages, we figured out we actually have a good team."
OFFENSIVELY, Mount Vernon operated out of the I-formation during an Aug. 20 scrimmage against Woodbridge, but Wells said the Majors will run multiple formations during the season. Sophomore Robert Decardi-Nelson (5 feet10, 175 pounds) will start at quarterback for the Majors, with senior Tre Cooke (5-9, 219) backing him up.
"We’re looking at the longevity of the program," Wells said. "Robert has all the tools. He’s a little young. Some of the things that we’re asking him to do, quite frankly, he’s not had to do before: reading coverages, reading defenses, taking his time, making sure his mechanics are where they need to be. He’s a work in progress, but he’s a kid that has the tools.
"If he can hang on and show some progress each week, he could end up being a three-year starter."
At running back, senior Emmanuel Tackie (5-8-152) and junior Sadiq Odyedele (5-6, 156) will split carries. In the passing game, junior Michael Lewis (6-1, 189) has emerged as one of the team’s top receiving threats.
On the offensive line, Wells said senior left tackle Logan Beougher (6-3, 256) is the best of a group looking to improve.
"To have five kids with [Beougher’s] disposition and size and strength would make a world of a difference," Wells said. "He’s kind of an anchor. He’s a guy I know we can go behind if we need to."
Defensively, Mount Vernon will run the 4-3, led by Beougher at defensive end, Cooke at middle linebacker and senior Deandre Wooten (5-6, 145) at cornerback.
Wells said he wants to approach the season in a realistic fashion, setting his minimum win goal at five.
"Anything less than .500 is going to be an extreme disappointment for me," Wells said. "Only because I know the work that the kids put in, I know the talent that we have, and if the kids can just get to a point where they’re confident in what they’re doing, we could sneak up on some people."
STANDING in the Majors’ way during the opener is West Potomac. The Wolverines lost eight of their next nine games after thumping Mount Vernon to start the 2009 season and will have to replace their starting quarterback and four members of their offensive line. Still, senior left guard Dan Carriker (6-2, 300), a Division I prospect and the lone returning starter from the O-line said he likes the team’s chances.
"I feel like we have more talent," Carriker said, and "a lot more discipline than in the past few years that I’ve been on the team."
The main reason behind the team’s improved discipline, Carriker said, is an infusion of assistant coaches. Five new assistant coaches joined the Wolverines this year, giving them a varsity/JV staff of 14. Head coach Eric Henderson said he’s noticed a difference.
"I think we’re more focused," Henderson said. "Our practices have been much sharper. It’s been a pleasant change. We brought in some new coaches; more position group coaches. Last year we had a smaller staff, this year we have a lot of good guys that work hard at it and it’s rubbing off on the kids."
Leading West Potomac’s no-huddle spread offense is senior quarterback Nik Dimitrijevic (6-3, 210), who saw time last year when starter Colin Mathewson went down with an injury. The Wolverine’s top receiving threats are seniors Daryl Copeland (5-8, 160) and Jalen Dawson (5-9, 170). Junior Brandon Johnson (5-10, 170) will see most of the carries at running back.
Along with Carriker on the offensive line will be sophomore left tackle Hunter Dennis (6-3, 300), junior center Tommy Friederich (5-10, 240), junior right guard Agyenim Agyei-Boateng (6-0, 210) and senior right tackle Jesse Fico (6-5, 260).
Defensively, West Potomac runs multiple fronts. Senior end Dustin Hess (6-1, 210), senior nose guard Antonio Fitzgerald (6-2, 270) and senior three-technique tackle Alvaro Guzman (5-8, 210) solidify the defensive line. Henderson said Guzman is pound for pound the strongest player on the team.
Junior Kofi Adom (5-10, 190) is the team’s middle linebacker. Senior Sonpon Doe (6-2, 210) is the strong side linebacker. Henderson said he expects a breakout season from Doe, who missed his junior year due to shoulder surgery.
In the secondary, Henderson is high on junior cornerback Tyrone Jenkins (6-0, 160).
"As far as talent goes," Henderson said, "I think he’s a can’t-miss DI kind of kid."
Senior Denzel Hatch (5-9, 160) is the other corner, and juniors Tamaric Wilson (5-9, 170) and Ryan Aitken (5-9, 160) are the safeties.
Each team would like to start the 2010 season with a win over its rival. The Majors, however, are looking for their first win of any kind since 2008.
"A win for us would mean a lot," Mount Vernon senior lineman Steve Funk said. "Not only that, but it would give us bragging rights. We’re hungry for this win; not just because it’s West Potomac, because we haven’t won a game in over a year."