Saturday, July 16, 2005

Eagles coach looking for improvement

Mike Woodard Jr. runs across a field at McDade Park, eagerly catching passes while wearing a New York Jets’ Wayne Chrebet shirt.
Unfortunately, he is much too young to help out his father, Mike, the 48-year-old first-year head coach of the Scranton Eagles.

Too bad, because with just two wide receivers, the Eagles need depth at the position.

Still, his youth is a reminder to coach Woodard that the rebuilding of the Eagles is going to take some time.

“We have a lot of inexperience, and the worst thing about that is we played the best team in the league last week,’’ coach Woodard said. “This team has to learn, buckle up its chin straps.’’

The next building block comes at 7:30 tonight at Scranton Memorial Stadium, when the Eagles play their home opener against Ottawa.

They will do their best to erase the memories of last weekend’s season opener.

A 49-0 loss to Albany last Saturday was not the way Woodard hoped to start the season. But, it’s hard to imagine how it could have gone otherwise, considering the circumstances.

The Metro Mallers were the defending Empire Football League champions, with 60 to 70 players suited up for their league opener.

The Eagles had 30 some players, many of whom were making their debut with the team.

“For my new guys, to see 60 of them coming out of the tunnel, it had to make them wonder, ‘Why did I do this’,’’ Woodard said.

With that shock behind them, the Eagles can concentrate on making improvements, even in the smallest areas — a lineman keeping a defender from reaching the quarterback, a linebacker wrapping up a ball carrier, doing what they’re supposed to do on a play — little things that really could mean a lot.

“You learn from your mistakes, and that makes you better,’’ Woodard said. “If they’re not learning, they shouldn’t be out here.

“We’re going to give a better showing than we gave the other night.’’

That loss, one of the worst in the Eagles storied history, will be considered the low point of the season if Woodard has his way.

“We have to get better every game, every practice,’’ he said. “We have to make sure everybody knows their assignment. We may not have the most athletic ability, but we have ball players with heart.’’

They’ll need players with a whole lot of heart.

After all, it’s not child’s play out there.

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©The Times-Tribune 2005

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