Future looks bright for Pine Tree
Nov. 7, 2012 at 10 p.m.
For head coach Derek Fitzhenry and the Pirates, the 2012 season has been one giant puzzle.
And the pieces are falling in place for Pine Tree.
One of the biggest chunks so far has been offense, an area where Pine Tree has made great strides throughout the season.
"Offensively, we're making huge progress in the amount of points that we're scoring and the amount of yards we're accomplishing each game," Fitzhenry said. "We're averaging well into double digits of points each game. We're getting close to where we need to be."
In 2011, the Pirates managed 346 total yards of offense per game, primarily on the ground with 332 yards rushing per contest. Through eight games in 2012, the Pirates have upped the average to 417 yards per game – split down the middle on rushing and passing.
Pine Tree finished the 2011 campaign with 143 yards of passing on the year. To date, the Pirates have amassed 1,668 yards through the air, one-third of which came last week from the arm of Caleb Chumley.
The junior, taking over for injured starter Jake Oden, threw for 417 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushed for five more en route to 131 yards on the ground in the Pirates' 70-48 loss to a high-octane Sulphur Springs squad.
"Oden severely injured his hand during the Marshall game and had a staff infection last week," Fitzhenry said. "That gave Chumley the opportunity to go into the game with a week of practice knowing he was the starter."
Making his first start at the helm of the Pirate offense, the 6-5, 230-pound athlete had some nerves to shake, according to Fitzhenry.
"After the first possession I told him, 'You're the best athlete out there. You've got to believe that and quit being so nervous," Fitzhenry said. "And he did that."
Despite his size, Fitzhenry was quick to point out how mobile Chumley is and how his speed meshes with his throwing ability.
"He throws the ball accurately and can make the tough throw," Fitzhenry said. "He is also a true threat to run and can get himself out of trouble.
"He's an intimidating character on the football field and the other guys are excited about it. They realize that he is a different element out there."
Chumley will get the nod this week but Oden, who has thrown for 1,105 yards and rushed for another 570 this season, will see some time in the backfield as well.
"We've been working on some things for this week," Fitzhenry said. "Both can throw, both can catch, both can run, it should be fun and exciting to watch."
Along with the new offensive threat, Fitzhenry acknowledged his squads' dedication and hard work throughout the year has led to this year's strides, attributing his seniors for the spark.
"Those guys work hard week in and week out. They've been dedicated to winning and putting in their time in practice and in the weight room," Fitzhenry said. "They've done a great job of leading the others and showing them the amount of dedication it takes."
While Pine Tree will lose 24 seniors after Friday's game, the squad feature five sophomores at starting roles and even more coming up through the ranks.
"One thing we're going to be missing is a big threat at running back, that's one piece of the puzzle," Fitzhenry said. "And we've got some kids coming up that can certainly fill that role."
That aspect, as well as the new football stadium tentatively set to open before next season, has the head coach excited about the future.
"We've got our offense on the right track and will continue to improve our defense heading into the offseason," Fitzhenry said. "We've got a lot of youth returning and coming up, so our future is bright.
"How you gauge success is winning, and there hasn't been too much of that going on in the past, so we have to make sure we are getting close to that and finally take the step."
The Pirates will close the 2012 season Friday at Pine TreeStadium against Mount Pleasant.
(Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: @hayden_h)