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Bradley and Patriots Get to Work

New Patrick Henry football coach Brad Bradley.
New Patrick Henry football coach Brad Bradley.

To say that the Patrick Henry Patriots football program has struggled over the past few years would be an understatement. The school’s last winning season came all the way back in 2000, and the Patriots are coming off of an abysmal 1-9 record last season that led to the departure of former coach Bob Gray.

However, Patriots fans might have reason to be optimistic as preseason practices begin. The reason? Brad Bradley.

Bradley, a Salem High School graduate, comes to Patrick Henry with an impressive coaching resume that includes two Class A Division I state championships in 2002 and 2005 at William Campbell. He also brings a spread offense modeled after that of Rich Rodriguez, the Head Coach at the University of Michigan.

But when asked about his plan to turn around the beleaguered program, Bradley didn’t break open his offensive playbook or talk about his track record of success. Instead, he offered a simple, straightforward response: “We’re going to work, and we’re gonna work really hard.”

And work they have. In Bradley’s first week on the job, he gathered the team together and laid out their plans for the offseason. Those plans involved a lot of time in the weight room, which, according to the new coach, was about more than just getting stronger.

“It really gave us a good idea of who was willing to pay the price, put their time in and work,” Bradley said.  By the middle of the summer, nearly 70 players were regulars in the gym, evidence that the team is buying into Bradley’s philosophy.

“You know, winning, it all starts in the offseason,” he said. “Really, football is a year-round commitment now. And when you start getting a core group that is invested in the program, whether it’s with their time, their energy, or their passion…the better you’re going to be.”

To help with the transition on the field, the Patriots participated in 7 v. 7 competition during the spring and summer for the first time in years, where they performed quite well, finishing 3rd out of 14 teams at a tournament in Amherst.

The live action was a great benefit to the Patriots, who will be learning a completely new offense and defense under Bradley. And the new systems, especially offensively, are radically different. Only a year removed from the single-wing formation favored by Coach Gray, the players will now find themselves in four and five wide receiver sets – and often.

“There’s nothing similar between what the kids ran last year and what we’ll be doing this year,” Bradley said, noting that his squad will operate out of the shotgun 90% of the time. “But we do think we have the personnel to execute what we want to run.”

Defensively, Bradley’s teams traditionally run a “53” – five down lineman and three linebackers. “It’s a pretty straightforward, gap-responsibility style defense. Nothing complex…this is high school football, so we’ll be focused on what everyone else is focused on – stopping the run.”

Only two weeks into camp, the players and the coaching staff are still growing accustomed to one another, so it is difficult to determine what to expect from the Patriots this season. Will the offense blossom in the spread, or will it struggle with such a drastic change in philosophies? What unknown players will step up?

While those questions will remain unanswered for at least a few more weeks, what is undeniable is the effect Bradley has had on his team thus far. His infectious attitude and intensity seem to indicate that even if the Patriots don’t win many games this season, no one will want to play them.

“My kids are going to work hard, be disciplined, and we’re not going to beat ourselves,” Bradley said. “As a coaching staff, we’re going to preach those things consistently. We’re going to teach the fundamentals. We’re going to do the little things well. And if we can do those things, we’ll be successful.”

By Matt Reeve
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