LANGLEY - Upon first glance, visitors to L.L. Willis Stadium this season might not recognize the Midland Valley High football team.
Coach Rick Knight and his staff are changing things up, teaching old horses new tricks.
"I think people are going to be shocked," said senior quarterback Brett Godwin, one of several third-year starters in a new spread offense. "We're going to be a totally different team. People who have seen us in the past might think we've picked up a bunch of new players or something."
Experienced on offense and young on defense, the Mustangs are hoping the changes - the defense is also switching schemes - go a long way in turning around a program that's under pressure after back-to-back 1-9 seasons.
"This is a critical year for us, as a community and as a school," Knight said. "But nobody can put as much pressure on me and the staff as ourselves. We need to have some success."
A schedule change looks to benefit Midland Valley, which has replaced Aiken and South Aiken on the nonregion slate with smaller schools.
"These kids need to see some success early," Knight said. "We started 0-3 for six straight years and in three of those, we came back to win the region. But the last several years, starting 1-3, it gets harder and harder to bring (the players) up.
"The whole reason for the nonregion is to get ready for the region, not to get beat up before it," Knight added.
The Mustangs might also benefit from an increase in team speed, Knight said, something they never have been known for.
"This is the most speed we've had in a while," said Godwin. He added that the team "was inspired" by its performances in several passing leagues this summer against some of the state's top teams. "It's been a whole lot different this year."
Don't expect to see quite as many players going both ways for the Mustangs this season, either. Knight said he now has enough to two-platoon his players.
Midland Valley's junior varsity team went undefeated in region play last season, and Knight said he hopes that and the varsity team's success in passing drills this summer helps turn things around.
"We're trying to motivate them hard, just teaching them to compete," Knight said. "And we've been mostly successful."
Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.