Back-to-back 3-7 seasons and missing the playoffs both years have made for long offseasons for Morristown West and third-year head coach Dr. Alvin Sanders.

But going through the adversities of injuries and losing coaching staff members have helped strengthen the resolve of the team, and Sanders is anxious to see what his team can do when the 2019 season commences in less than six weeks.

“It’s been a long offseason for us,” Sanders said. “We went 3-7 last year and didn’t make the playoffs, so we got an early start on this season. It’s something we aren’t accustomed to here, and the guys have told us coaches to do whatever we need to do to be successful. We’ve adjusted our weight room workouts, our strength and conditioning, the entire program to fit and tailor to the needs of our guys, and they keep responding.

“With some of the staff changes we have had to make, the kids are really rallying around each other and our staff. We will get a chance to practice that. We are only as strong as our weakest link, and we’ve been building from there. To be where we are right now, weeks away from opening the season, this entire process has been fun.”

“It’s the first time in a long time it’s actually been fun, and I’m excited for our kids, our school and our community.”

Experience is a valuable tool in sports, especially in football, and due to a rash of injuries the past two seasons, the Trojans have some seasoned veterans at key spots on the offensive and defensive lines coming into this year, even among the junior class. Sanders noted the difference in what he sees from this year’s team as opposed to his first two as head coach, saying the experience those kids received the last two years is paying dividends, both on and off the field for West.

“The biggest difference for us is, after practice, I had two veteran offensive linemen come in and tell me, we’re working on this but we’re having trouble with something else,” Sanders said. “In the past couple of years, we have had a lot of freshmen and sophomores playing on the offensive line and defensive line. Now to have those guys as juniors and seniors, they know what to expect, what to do and how to do it, it’s a huge blessing for us.

“We still have a long way to go, and we have a big competition going at quarterback, in the secondary and trying to solidify starters. We’re still so much better now in a sense that our kids understand how iron sharpens iron and how important each day is and the importance of being consistent. Making that progress has made us so much better.”

The Trojans will seek their sixth straight win over Morristown East on Friday, Aug. 23, when they face the Hurricanes in the 11th annual Citizen Tribune Kickoff Classic presented by East Tennessee OB/GYN and Dr. Frank Ellis at Burke-Toney Stadium to open the season.

Opening up with East for the third straight year is something that Sanders welcomes, both with excitement and anxiety due to Caleb Slover taking over as head coach of the ‘Canes and totally revamping their style, causing West to see something completely different this season from their crosstown rival for the first time in more than a decade.

“Each year gets a little nervier from the standpoint of knowing what to expect from East,” Sanders said. “They have a new coach, and Caleb and I go way back from playing against each other in college, so I know the competitor that he is and I know the pedigree that he has.

“They will be a great ball club and a great test to open the season with. We have to do a great job of taking care of us and not let the game be bigger than what it is. It’s a fun game, one we will remember for a long time. It means a lot to our school and community, but the main thing is going out and playing Trojan football.”