Macon Primed in Sheridan's Second Year
One game does not define a season, but Randolph-Macon's mid-season overtime loss to ODAC rival – and eventual national semifinalist – Roanoke was indicative of what the Yellow Jackets endured in 2011, as well as being a jumping off point for this spring.
For J.B. Sheridan, the second-year head coach at Randolph-Macon, the seven-day period culminating with a 12-11 setback to the Maroons encapsulated the Jackets quest for consistency.
"That game kind of summed up our shortcoming last year," Sheridan said. "The week before we played Roanoke, Virginia Wesleyan beat us and I didn't think we put our best foot forward and [VWC] played well. And then to turn around and play Roanoke in that close of a game showed that they're capable of good things. But they have to have the consistency to do it every single day."
For Sheridan, that means doing the extra things outside of practice. He cut his teeth with the Salisbury program, going 60-1 in his collegiate career playing on the Eastern Shore, where you didn't see the field unless you put in the extra time. The Roanoke game both exposed Randy-Mac's need for more dedication and consistency, as well as providing the impetus to do so.
"We definitely took some positives away from that game," Sheridan said. "That's one of those situations where guys definitely feel like they deserved to be on that playing field. More than leaving with a positive feeling, it left our guys hungrier. Knowing that if they had capitalized on the little things later in the game, we an opportunity to put it away and win it. They now know they are on the edge of taking those wins when they get a chance."
Continuity of the roster this spring will complement the 'Noke confidence boost of '11. The Yellow Jackets graduated only three players and return the entire starting unit. This should be critical because Sheridan and his staff won't have reintroduce the playbook and the style they want to play, which was more plodding than Sheridan wanted.
"When I got here I wanted to use the athletes we had and try to increase the tempo," he said. "We have some guys in the midfield and on the offensive end of the field who can play in transition really well, but they needed to have the restrictor plate taken off. They had to learn how to run and gun; not be so scripted and have the mass subs. We're trying to get our guys focused on being athletes first and playing the game. It took a little while, but once we got the guys to really start learning how to do that better, it has really helped. We have turned into a pretty good transition team."
In addition to proven starters on the team, Sheridan is looking for improved performances from some lesser known players. Junior Tim Rowe is a big, athletic middie who has the potential to be one of the big guns. Sophomore BK McCaskill is expected to expand his role on close defense and attackman Brett Austin, a Vancouver, B.C., native, has improved his knowledge of the field game.
The Jackets will put it to the test this weekend when they travel to York for the season opener. The Spartans have a new coach in former Eastern skipper Brandon Childs, but York is coming off a 10-6 season and will give Macon all it can handle. Still, Sheridan likes where his team is at.
"We feel a little bit more organized than we did last year at this point," he said. "Having a whole other year in the system without losing a lot of guys, we spent a lot less time teaching throughout this fall and early part of this year. Last year, we were putting in a whole playbook and teaching the certain way of doing things. This year, it's second nature for everyone and they're play more comfortably. They are finding all the little wrinkles with the plays they are already comfortable with."