Wilson prepares for second season with Frazier
Larry Wilson Jr. may have assumed the responsibilities of head football coach at Frazier prior to last season, but it's this season that he feels is truly his own.
"I was new last year, so I kind of feel like (this year's players) are my kids," he said. "They've been in the program for two years now, and they've been around me."
Wilson said this season's team, particularly its crop of seniors, put in a great deal of work over the summer.
"We have a demanding summer program," he said. "These kids understand our philosophy as coaches, and they do a really good job for us."
Among the Commodores' group of seniors is Rob Lerda, who Wilson said has been a standout so far. Wilson explained that after lettering in his sophomore year, Lerda had to undergo heart surgery in the middle of last season. But he seems to have recovered well.
"He's been really standing out. He's really come around and shown some leadership," Wilson said. "He's going to do some really good things for us, both offensively and defensively."
Leadership could be key for Frazier this year, especially after losing eight seniors to graduation in the spring. Wilson said he'll look to at least three players to step up and lend their experience to the team.
"Our quarterbacks, T.J. Martinak and Steve Erdley, both have experience from last year. Even though we have low numbers, it's nice to have two quarterbacks who can go in and run the offense," Wilson said.
Wilson is also expecting tailback Craig Neely to provide a spark for the offense.
"He's really shown that he's going to take the role of tailback this year," Wilson said, noting that Neely also played that position last season. "He really dedicated himself over the summer. He put on some weight and built up his strength and speed, so we're looking for him to do some pretty good things."
Wilson said he'll make some decisions concerning starting positions over the next few days, but he has already seen some good things.
"I'll know more next week, but some of the kids have shown that they've improved since last year," he said.
Wilson said he instituted a junior varsity season last year, and he believes that helped the varsity squad as well.
"Last year, the kids played on Friday night and then played again on Monday, so it was like getting two seasons in one," Wilson said. He explained that the extra action helped the Commodores work on their fundamentals. "Just the experience has really paid dividends this year."
Another asset, according to Wilson, has been Frazier's "overall attitude" and the willingness of the squad's seniors to work with the younger players.
"They've been around me for two years now, and the team is coming together, and it's showing right now in practices," Wilson said. "We're trying to go back to that team toughness. We want to play really good defense."
Wilson said he remembers an attitude of toughness from his own days in a Frazier uniform.
"We didn't have the numbers, but we always thought we were pretty tough, and that's what we're trying to instill in these kids," he said.
The Commodores will need to be tough in order to make headway against such conference competition as Monessen and Carmichaels.
"I think they're going to be right at the top again," Wilson said, also naming California as a team to watch.
Wilson said he and his coaching staff, which consists of defensive coordinator/tight ends coach Brian Salisbury; quarterbacks and defensive ends coach Chad Salisbury; offensive and defensive line coaches Tim Beck and Craig Kordich; and junior high coaches Larry Wilson Sr., Dan Kordich and volunteer coach Bill Henderson, will have to wait and see what happens once the season begins.
"Right now, I can say we've done everything we needed to do in the off-season," Wilson said, highlighting weight training and speed drills. "So right now, until we start playing, we've done everything we needed to do but just go out and see what happens."