By Dan Hardenbrook

After a winless season in 2020, Engadine football coach Vince Leveille isn’t feeling sorry for himself. That’s not who he is. The man who once starred for the green and gold is fully focused on turning things around, and he’ll have to do it with a scant squad this year.

“Our goal is to increase our numbers in the program and take it to a more competitive level. We are hoping to have a JV and varsity team this year, depending on how many kids show up,” said Leveille. “Our biggest challenge is getting kids out. We have back to back classes (sophomore and junior that are very low in numbers.”

Part of the problem is transportation over their large school district, but Leveille says the football team will have bussing available this year, and he hopes that’ll help.

The Eagles coach also knows that because of the team’s record last year, people are already counting them out in 2021. He sees that as possibly a good thing. “We may sneak up on a few teams and surprise them,” he said. “This year we are going to really focus on the fundamentals and keep it simple.”

The turnaround started with a new focus and dedication to the weight room, is key to any program’s development.

“Our booster club did an awesome job refurbishing our weight room,” Leveille said. “We also have a Graymont grant coming soon to finish it off with all new equipment.”

This is benefitting younger athletes, too, who have already begun working out in the weight room.

Due to low numbers at the youth and JV levels, Engadine has been forced to throw younger players directly into the fire, sometimes before they are ready.

“Not having a JV team hurts your program in the long run,” Leveille said. “We have spent a lot of time and effort recruiting incoming freshmen and adding kids to the program. We are hoping to be in the mid-20’s for total kids. We’re going to do all we can to play as many JV games as possible.”

So what are the keys to turning things around? Capitalizing on the strengths these players already possess.

“Engadine kids have always been hard workers. We really focus on working harder than our opponents,” Leveille said. “That attitude should pay off in the long run.”

Leveille will instruct his players to focus on the basics while getting stronger and faster.

He’s got his eyes on one game in particular. After taking Newberry to the limit in last season’s Little Brown Jug game, the Eagles will host this year’s matchup.

“I think it’s a great rivalry and will continue to be for many years,” he said. “Newberry should make a run this year. They have a lot of talent and a great coaching staff. We hope to be competitive every year we play.”

In the end, Leveille is embracing the challenge of his second year as head coach, after his homecoming season was overshadowed by the challenge of building a program during a pandemic.

“I’m looking forward to a full season without interruptions and delays,” Leveille said. “If we stay healthy I think we’ll be a much better team this year.”