The Anna Rockets, coming off a 5–5 campaign in 2016, are looking to take that next step. Third-year head coach Nick Marino is clear about what needs to be done to make that happen in 2017.
Anna – In covering a wide range of topics relating to football, coaching in general, and more specifically his Anna Rockets, Urbana native Nick Marino was very upbeat about his 2017 squad.
The University of Urbana grad feels that there’s a lot to like about this team.
“We have much greater team speed than in the past, we had an excellent year in the weight room in terms of participation, and consequently we have become a stronger team,” says Mariono.
“We changed some things up in our off season conditioning where we spent more time working on explosiveness, and we feel that this change will pay dividends on Friday nights.”
When camp opens next week Coach Marino will welcome a number of veteran players that will be the key to Rocket success this year.
Included in this group is third year starter Travis Meyer at QB, along with three year letterman, Aidan Endsley, whose history dictates he’ll be one of the better running backs in the MAC again this year.
Providing holes and protection for the Anna backfield will be an offensive line that is led by another three year starter, 6’3” 275 lb. senior, Abe Wildermuth. Wildermuth will also anchor the defensive line while the coaching staff will seek to find some replacements during camp to join the big senior. The Rockets would like to play control football and throw when they want to, not when they have to.
Other key members of the Rocket defense include linebacker’s Ethan Burd and Riley Huelskamp, and the ball hawking DB Caleb Hoffman led the MAC in interceptions last year. Anna plans on employing a 3-3 stack defense, a departure from their standard 4-3 of past years.
Though Marino’s coaching staff prefers to think of their team as primarily a running team, they are keenly aware that to succeed in the MAC you must be able to throw the football. While the Rocket’s number one receiver was lost to graduation, several underclassmen have emerged during camps this summer and in the 7 on 7’s.
“We simply need more consistency in our passing game, from QB accuracy, to line protection, and better routes. We have to be crisper,” adds Marino.
“All of this can relate to an area of concern that we have addressed that revolves us as team playing with greater discipline. It’s not like our athletes are not listening or anything like that, we simply are not doing a good enough job on Friday night applying what we practiced all week, and that’s an area that will be addressed.”
The Shelby county team, which entered MAC play in 2005, is looking to develop the type of consistent play exhibited by the traditional powers of the MAC. Nick Marino certainly has the know-how. He finished 10-1 and 7-3 in his two-year stint as head coach at Urbana. In his first year at Anna he finished 3-7, and improved to a deceiving 5-5 in 2016.
But their 2016 record was characterized by a number of close games. Their game with Versailles went down to the final wire, the Rockets lost to St. Henry in double overtime, and then to the Minster Wildcats in the final four seconds of regulation. If one of these games would have been reversed the Rockets would have made the play-offs with a 6-4 ledger. With some luck, 8-2, and possibly hosting a first round game
“We’re constantly working to develop the whole man, physically, mentally, and spiritually,” says Marino. If we can accomplish this all the other things – being able to get the first down on third and short, having complete, consistent focus in our games, thus eliminating breakdowns – all these things will take care of themselves.”
Like the other coaches in the MAC, Nick Marino knows it’s not an easy task. But when he took the job at Anna he came in with wide open eyes.
“We want to improve every week so that we are playing our best football in week 10. If that happens everything will take care of itself,” he assures.
A seemingly simple solution to a difficult problem, but there’s little doubt that Nick Marino believes he is on the right track. As a player, or fan, what more can you ask?