What a difference a year makes.
It was late July 2018 when Belleview athletic director Brian Fennewald named Adam Martin the Rattlers' new head football coach following the sudden resignation of Mike Kelly.
It was such a quick turnaround that Martin and the Rattlers were playing catch up all season.
“It was a whirlwind,” said Martin, a former Belleview player who had previously served as linebackers’ coach under Kelly. “I don’t think we ever got our feet underneath us because it was a brand new group of kids.”
It was a young team. Plus, there were four players on the team who had never even played football before.
It all added up to an 0-9 finish.
“We really only had one returning player,” Martin said.
But all of that has changed in just one year.
Four of the five offensive linemen are returning, including junior tackle Blake Ehrisman (6’, 280), junior Isiah Bailey, and sophomore guard Dylan Kennard (5’10, 210).
Demetrius McCants, who was an honorable mention All-County selection by the Star-Banner last year, is back to play quarterback. Starting wide receivers Dylan Pilcher and Lucas Thompson also return.
Plus, there are seven returning starters on defense.
Martin enters his second year with a better understanding of his team.
“Just coming out of having spring football, the ability to evaluate players, to really put some things in place and establish what we want to do as a culture, that’s huge,” Martin said. “We’re looking for vast improvement going into this next season.”
Senior captain Elijah Harris, who plays running back and linebacker, is one of just three seniors on this year’s team.
“I’m pretty excited,” Harris said. “Not only am I going to be the leader for all the newcomers to look up to, but I’m also excited to be playing football again.”
Despite the results on the field, Harris said he could see the progress in year one under Martin.
“We had some newer guys last year and it was their first time playing,” said Harris, who noted his approach as a senior leader and captain will be vital to his team’s success. “They kind of got thrown into the deep end a little bit. But it was a good learning experience for them.”
Martin said the focus is to take a step forward this year and to take another step forward next year.
“Last year we had to learn how to play,” he said. “This year we’ve got to learn how to win. They don’t know how to win.”
Going independent this year, instead of competing in a district, was a topic of conversation. However, the Rattlers decided to stay and compete in the new Class 5A-District 6 this season with Marion County public schools Vanguard (12-1), Dunnellon (8-6 Class 4A state semifinalist), North Marion (12-3 5A state runner-up) and Lake Weir (8-4 in 2018) in the 5-team district.
Including this Friday’s Kickoff Classic against Forest, the Rattlers will play seven Marion County teams.
“We didn’t want to give the impression we were hiding from anyone,” Martin said. “Our kids want to see where we stand with the best that our county has to offer.”
Whether or not 2019 will be a successful season for Belleview football depends on a couple of key factors.
“We have to be extremely disciplined,” Martin said. “We have to execute. We are in a situation now where we can’t make mistakes because we can’t recover very well when we make mistakes.”
Aug. 23: West Port
Aug. 30: at St. John Lutheran
Sept. 6: Central
Sept. 13: at Lake Weir
Sept. 20: at Umatilla
Sept. 27: Dunnellon
Oct. 4: at Mount Dora Christian Academy
Oct. 11: Vanguard
Oct. 18: at North Marion
Nov. 1: Wildwood