By Brian Paglia
At Luella's spring football game Friday afternoon, Nic Vasilchek walked over to junior Marcus Dallas as he knelt on the sideline taking a brief respite from the action.
"We're not almost done, are we?" Dallas asked.
"No," Vasilchek answered. "Do you want to be almost done?"
"No way," Dallas responded.
In an offseason unlike any that Luella football has experienced in its history, the Lions are reforming its identity, for rarely has Luella encountered as much attrition and transition as it has since its 25-7 regular season finale loss to Newton prevented the Lions from making a second straight playoff appearance.
Luella knew it would lose its three-year starter at quarterback in Kyle Dickey. Luella knew it would lose its best playmaker in Virginia Tech signee Detrick Bonner. Luella knew it would lose its top two running backs and 13 starters in all.
But Luella didn't know it would lose the only coach in the program's history. Paul Burgdorf left Luella after seven seasons to take the head coaching position at Union Grove after the departure of Steven Collins.
The Lions promoted special teams coordinator and offensive line coach Nic Vasilchek, 30, as their next head coach, and he wasted no time in making his mark on the program.
"We're really raising expectations on people being on time, people showing up, people letting us know when they're not going to be there," Vasilchek said. "When you raise the bar, they're going to meet it."
Luella can expect the level of competition in Region 2-AAAAA to be raised, too; East Coweta, M.L. King, Newnan, Newton and Westlake all made the playoffs last season.
Vasilchek said the Lions cannot expect to match any of those teams in talent. That's why the Lions will employ a more traditional run-oriented offense in an effort to keep teams off the field and make up for any disadvantages in size and strength.
"If we give teams a lot of opportunities, we're going to get blown out," Vasilchek said. "We want to be able to eat up the clock and control the ball."
The team's quarterback should be Kameron Hughes, who led the junior varsity team last season to a runner-up finish in the county. Jarrell Sutton, Alvin Hill and J.T. Howard should all get carries out of the backfield. They'll run behind perhaps the team's best players in offensive linemen Tafarie Hodge and A.J. Colstock.
Vasilchek also said Chase Scott, who was third on the team in tackles as a sophomore linebacker, could see time at quarterback.
"We've been acting like the past is the past and have been telling them they have to earn their spots," Vasilchek said. "We have a lot of young inexperienced guys."
Vasilchek's players aren't the only ones with inexperience. This is Vasilchek's first stint as a head coach.
But it's been better than he expected.
"It's actually been pretty fantastic," Vasilchek said. "A lot of it I thought was just a honeymoon, but they're buying in. We're doing things differently. I thought it would take a lot of time, but it's been pretty quick."