Few high school football head coaches are more invested in the program they lead than Terry Sanford’s Bruce McClelland.
A former quarterback at his alma mater, McClelland has been on the staff for numerous years until being elevated to head coach for 2017 after the departure of Bryan Till to Richmond Senior.
“It’s just the community aspect of it,’’ McClelland said as he led his team through spring conditioning as its head coach for the first time. “At this point in life, I try to pass on to the kids what football did for me, how it made me the man I am today.’’
One lesson he’s already shared with his players is that the high school football scoreboard on a Friday night is like a job interview. “If you don’t win on Friday night, what will you do next week to get the job, win the game?” he said.
For this season, McClelland hopes to do much of what Terry Sanford did under Till, which means winning conference titles and making the state playoffs. After back-to-back Cape Fear Valley 3-A titles, the Bulldogs slid to a tie for third last year and a 9-4 overall record.
McClelland was the offensive coordinator and doesn’t plan wholesale changes in what the Bulldogs do, but he does want to put his stamp on the program, starting with spring workouts.
“The main thing the coaching staff and I want to get to are the basics, formational things — what we are going to hang our hat on offensively and defensively,” he said.
McClelland said the emphasis on offense will be a multiple look, a variety of formations mixed with the team’s assortment of base plays. The goal, he said, is to make the job of preparing to play Terry Sanford as tough as possible for opposing defensive coordinators.
“Five plays in 10 formations becomes 50 plays,’’ McClelland said. “It gives us an advantage on Friday night.’’
Another advantage for the Bulldogs will be the return of twin brothers Christian Jayne at quarterback and Andrew Jayne at wide receiver.
Andrew said things are basically the same with McClelland as they were with Till, but added that even if that wasn’t the case, it wouldn’t be a problem. “He’s the head coach,’’ Andrew said of McClelland. “What he wants to do, I’ll do.’’
Andrew said the focus of spring was to work with younger players on the team, especially the receivers, and teach them the pass routes and timing issues.
One thing that will be new for everyone this fall is the 3-A/4-A Patriot Conference Terry Sanford is joining that mixes Cumberland County rivals from the old Mid-South and Cape Fear Valley Conferences in with Overhills.
“We’ve got more teams we haven’t played, but other than Coach McClelland being here, that doesn’t change anything,’’ Andrew said. “He’ll coach football how he knows to and we’ll be the same team.
“We’ll be ready.’’
Photo: Bulldog Coach Bruce McClelland