- Last Updated on 12:00 PM 11/12/12
- BY Joe Chandler
Halifax County High School Head Varsity Football Coach Michael Roark says the Comets football program took a “quantum leap” forward this season.
The Comets posted a 3-7 record, the best record a Comets team has posted since 2008 and scored the most points a Comets team has scored since the 2009 season. That record included a thrilling 37-36 double-overtime win over Franklin County High in a season in which the Comets still had a chance to make it to the Northwest Region Division 5 playoffs heading into the next-to-last game of the season.
Along with the three wins, the Comets were on the cusp of winning three others games – those against E.C. Glass, Magna Vista High School and William Fleming High School – with the difference between winning and losing being the matter of just a couple or three plays and a total of 18 points.
“We gave them (opponents) a run for the money,” Roark pointed out.
“We left 100 points on the field the last five games. We had either fourth-and-goal and didn’t make it or we’d have a 10- or 12-play drive and then take a penalty that put us back too far. Against PH, we had fourth-and-goal and hit Tyler Dunn with a pass in the end zone for a touchdown to make the score 12-7 and we jump offside. We take the penalty, back up, and come up with no points. Against Magna Vista, we had a third-down-and-three and fumbled the pitch after we had just driven 60-plus yards.
“It’s frustrating,” Roark added, “but, at the same time, did we do it intentionally, no. Things like that are frustrating. It’s also promising. What shows is what we’re doing works.”
Roark noted that with the exception of the Heritage game, fans and supporters of the Comets football program saw a better Comets football team.
“We weren’t getting blown out of ballgames,” he pointed out.
“We made mistakes that hurt us in games, which is whole lot different than being down by a 40-0 score at halftime. We went into halftime at ballgames either up or down by a touchdown, sometimes two touchdowns down, and there was no sense of urgency or panic. For the most part we played it out and played people pretty tough.”
One of the big things, Roark said, was that the team battled all season.
“One of things I really wanted to make sure we did this year was not quit,” Roark said.
“We battled in every game. For me, that was a big plus for these kids. That was a major thing that we had to do. If you watched film of games from the last couple of years, you could see that when the opposing team scored on us, the heads of the kids went down. It (the game) was over early. It wasn’t over early this year.”
Next season another step forward
While a lot of good things happened for the Comets football program this season Roark says ‘we still have a quantum leap to go.’ He says next season should be another step forward for the program.
“There is so much you can do now with the new out-of-season rules,” Roark pointed out.
“Being here and living here now will make it a lot easier to get work done during the off-season. I’m hoping to have a lineman competition this summer. I’m hoping to have our own seven-on-seven competition this summer. We will also go to some of these things.”
The Comets coach says he also wants to bring back the NFL football academy tackling camp that was held here this past summer.
“If you look at our weaknesses, one of them was tackling,” Roark explained.
“We need to improve in that area. There are drills we can do in the off-season without helmets and pads that can help us improve on tackling. “
As far as the passing game and work on the defensive secondary goes, Roark plans to have his players involved in seven-on-seven competitions again.
“Seven-on-sevens will start in March,” he said.
“We’ve got to see who is coming up at quarterback. I know Tyler (Comets quarterback Tyler Stephens) is going to be playing baseball, so I’m going to have find some kids for seven-on-seven because we can’t stop. We’ll start that in March and go through the summer and have our passing game dialed in.”
The Comets coach says the off-season weightlifting and conditioning programs will continue to be in place.
“We’ve got the kids lifting hard,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to getting the kids back in here in December going at it. This year we won’t lose those first four months (of workouts) like we did last year.
“Next year’s kids are starting out ahead of where they were last year,” added Roark.
“Last year in March the kids were asking ‘who is this guy and what are we doing?’ Now we know.”
Roark said he is seeing more interest in Comets football, another positive step.
“Player-wise, I think the kids see we care about them, and that’s huge,” he noted.
“I’ve already had 10 or 12 kids that didn’t play last year approach me and tell me they want to play next season. I think our numbers will be up. I feel that reflects on our coaches and how they treat the kids. The kids see what we’re trying to do for them here.”
The Comets coach also points to the success of the Comets ninth-grade and junior varsity teams, and says there will be players moving up in the ranks that have showed some potential.
“You’ve got to be excited with what our young kids did,” he said.
“There are some talented kids coming up from the middle school. Frank (Halifax County Middle School Head Coach Frank Shealy) was running our system at the middle school. I think there is a better relationship between our program and the middle school program than in the past. That’s huge.”
Another positive factor Roark points to is that the Comets played a much more physical form of football than the Comets teams of the past few seasons.
“We didn’t get beat up this season,” he pointed out.
“We played physical football, and we got a lot of compliments from other coaches who said they were not expecting us to be that physical with their team. We haven’t had that reputation in the past. That was huge and we need to maintain that.”
The Piedmont District impact
The Comets will be playing their first season as a member of the Piedmont District next fall as the Virginia High School moves into a new six-group classification system complete with neighborhood districts comprised of schools of multiple classifications.
While the Comets will be competing in a new district, Roark does not see that as making a major impact as the team’s schedule will change only slightly from the one it had this season.
“We’re not changing our schedule a lot,” Roark pointed out.
“We’re losing Heritage High School (Lynchburg), and Patrick Henry High School and William Fleming on the schedule. We pick up Bassett High School, Tunstall High School and Patrick County High School. We’ll still be playing Jefferson Forest High School, E.C. Glass High School, Person (N.C.) High School, Franklin County High School, GW, Martinsville and Magna Vista High School.
“We’re getting better and we can play with all of those guys,” Roark continued.
“The most physical team this program has faced in the last four or five years has been Franklin County. They are, by far, the most physical team. We stood in the ring and fought with them this year. The next big obstacle we’ve got to get over is GW. That’s the mental piece of it. We’ve got to fight through that mental piece. I think we can.”
Can the Comets be a playoff contender in 2013?
That question is one that followers of the Halifax County High School football program are asking.
Roark says the answer to that question is yes.
“We were on the cusp of doing it this year,” he pointed out.
“We were going into Week Nine with a chance of getting into the playoffs. Our mentality next year has to be that we need a 5-5 or better season, and we need to get to the playoffs. That’s how we’re going to walk into this thing.”
Roark noted that if his team had won a couple of the three close games the Comets lost (E.C. Glass, Magna Vista High School and William Fleming) the Comets would have made the playoffs this season.
“We needed to close those three games (E.C. Glass, Magna Vista and William Fleming),” he said.
“If we start sealing those deals, then we will be come a consistent program. I think we will do it. I think we have the ability to do it.”