Mike Wilson feels comfortable even though he was just named the Middle Township High School football coach and formal practices begin next week.
Wilson, 28, has been a Middle assistant for four seasons. Middle opens the season at Millville on Friday, Sept, 10.
"I've been inside the program," Wilson said in a Wednesday afternoon phone interview. "I know all the kids. I have a good staff of assistant coaches. I think we'll be ready to go."
Wilson is currently the interim coach. Middle athletic director Scott Lodgek said the Board of Education should confirm Wilson as the full-time coach at its Aug. 19 meeting.
Wilson replaces Lee Chappine. Wilson is a 2000 Lower Cape May Regional graduate, but he is no relation to the current Lower football coach, who is also named Mike Wilson.
Wilson will teach history at Middle this school year. Chappine, a retired educator from Hammonton, did not teach at Middle.
Lodgek admitted the timing of the coaching change wasn't ideal.
"I appreciate all the effort and time Lee put in," Lodgek said Wednesday morning. "We just felt the program needed to go in another direction. We were concerned about numbers and we felt having a guy in the building would help us in those areas."
The Panthers, never a perennial football power, were 3-7 in 2009 and 9-21 in three seasons under Chappine.
Wilson said Middle will run the same defense but switch to a ball-control offense.
"Our goal is to shorten games, stay competitive and win in the fourth quarter," he said.
Wilson said he expects between 45-50 players to be involved in the program this season.
He said 21 freshmen have been working out consistently this summer.
"I think we can build on that freshmen class," he said. "You keep adding strong freshmen classes and that's how you get your numbers up."
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