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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Crane, Greenwood debut new head coaches - Odessa American: Football

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Posted: Monday, August 7, 2017 11:00 pm

ON A FARM-TO-MARKET ROAD Though Monday was the first chance for most local teams to hold two-a-day practices, it wasn’t Steve Rodman or Jared Sanderson’s first shift at their new jobs.

The new Crane and Greenwood head coaches, respectively, already had started planning toward their new teams’ success this fall.

Monday’s early morning practices were their first official chance to implement their systems and ideas for a better future for the Golden Cranes and Rangers.

At the forefront of both coaches’ minds this season is to hone in on each teams’ strengths.

In Crane, Rodman is switching his team’s offensive scheme from a spread-based attack where the Golden Cranes would try to win games with the pass to a smash-mouth, run-oriented style.

An hour up the road on U.S. Route 385 North and Interstate 20 East in Greenwood, Sanderson is using the foundation set by former head coach Shad Hanna to improve the Rangers. He’s also hoping to give his kids more freedom in his system.

“A lot of time when a coach goes in, the first year is tough because those seniors are accustomed to the way that it’s been,” Sanderson said. “They’ve got a great foundation. We want to take what they’ve done and build on that.”

Sanderson took over the helm of the Greenwood program in the middle of January after a stint as the head coach and athletic director at Levelland.

In 2016, Sanderson led Levelland to a 10-4 record and a Class 4A Division I state quarterfinals appearance. It fell to Abilene Wylie — which finished state runner-up as Lobos' quarterback Nick Gerber broke the Texas high school record for touchdown passes in a season (77).

Now donning the Ranger blue and white, Sanderson made no hesitation though — he won’t mind running the football if needed.

“These guys have got a lot of potential,” Sanderson said about his team. “We’re going to take what they do well and try to match that with our scheme and put us in the best possible position.

“Anytime you can be balanced in a game, it helps you. We feel like with the guys we have up front, we should be able to run the football. That’s something that we’re really going to focus on. I still think in high school football, you have to be able to run the football. We’re going to put a big emphasis on that.”

Sanderson understands that Greenwood has some holes to fill from graduating seniors and wants the current set of Rangers to embrace the changes to how practice was set up. At 6:30 a.m., the Rangers were lifting weights and getting ready to hit the field.

Once out of the weight room, Greenwood’s players split into several groups to focus on what positions they’d fit best.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” Greenwood senior offensive lineman Matt Groeschel said. “We got a new coaching staff. I feel like it’s the best coaching staff in 4A football.

“We’re ready to put in work. I feel like our coaching staff brings a lot to the table.”

Sanderson wasn’t the only Lobo coach to make the move to Greenwood. Former Levelland Offensive Coordinator Jhett Norman now holds the same position on the Rangers’ staff.

Rodman made a similar move for the Golden Cranes. He brought Bob Ferguson — his longtime defensive coordinator at Spearman to Crane to continue running his defense.

“He’s pretty much my rock and I do a lot of sounding off of him — ideas and stuff like that,” Rodman said about Ferguson. “He’s as good as gold and I just feel like I’m really fortunate and I feel like Crane’s really fortunate to have him with us.”

Rodman returned to Crane as its new head football coach in May after spending six years with the Golden Cranes from 1998 to 2004 as the team’s defensive backs coach. In those seasons, the Golden Cranes amassed a record of 67-12.

Over the past two seasons under former head coach Kirk Byrd, Crane lost a total of 16 games — winning three games each season.

The switch in offense and new blood running through the program could be the injection Crane has been looking for.

“The town is kind of hungry,” Crane senior Cris Martinez said about his hometown. “We’ve had some droughts the past few years and some of us have been fortunate enough to be on this varsity team since our freshman year, so we’ve kind of seen the problems with each team and kind of made it a point that we need to hit those certain things like buying in and just competing.”

Some of Crane’s seniors are entering their third head coach in high school and like the changes Rodman has already made.

They know this is their final chance to make their mark on Golden Cranes football.

“It’s a little different from the past three years,” Martinez said. “It’s always been a spread team, kind of beating everyone outside and beat them deep. It’s going to be new and exciting to play some smash-mouth football both ways on offense and defense.”

Rodman said his implementation of his offense and defense will take a few weeks and is starting at ground level. He also didn’t hesitate in planning it that way thinking it will make the Golden Cranes turn a corner with their play.

“There’s not a shortcut to winning or being successful,” Rodman said. “It’s really about work.

“In the summer time since I’ve been here, I’ve had a chance to evaluate the kids and I’ve got a good handle on what I believe some of their strengths are and what some of our weaknesses are and I’m really excited to get going and let some kids surprise me. They’re better than they think.”

Crane opens the season on Sept. 1 on the road against Iraan — which won 15 games last season.

The Golden Cranes hope to use their good turnout at spring weightlifting sessions and summer workouts to start their season strong and continue that until they reach Rodman’s goals.

“Crane has always been a special place for me and I love it,” Rodman said. “Crane football when I was here was smash-mouth football, kind of old school and we were successful doing it and I think we can get back to some of those things and be successful doing it.”

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