Depth, improved leadership key for 2018 Ravens

GEORGETOWN – Sussex Tech head football coach Mark Quillin took a page out of college football coaching great Nick Saban’s playbook when he implemented the “core leaders” program last winter.

Rising seniors Will Argo, Ian Williams, Michael Norsworthy, Trey Hatfield and Jamie Schirmer and junior starting quarterback Ricky Kane were chosen by Quillin to serve as Tech’s inaugural “core leaders” for the 2018 season.

“I think it’s helped these guys tremendously from the neck up,” Quillin said of the team’s new leadership program. “Those guys, our core leaders, are either juniors or rising seniors who started last year and I feel that these were the guys who contributed the most. We started meeting twice a month from January all the way through until now. Now we just meet and get together once a week, if we can get together.”

The program is aimed to groom team leaders, both on and off the field, during the off-season in order to strength the team as a whole.

“I got the idea from Alabama and Clemson, a lot of those schools do it,” Quillin said. “So, I stole some of their ideas about how to meet with their guys, how to talk about leadership and ownership. I give them duties during the day – whether it’s helping out with the locker room, helping out with field clean-up – and they do a lot of things to organize off the field.”

Coming off a 4-6 campaign a season ago, the team’s second straight year without a state tournament berth, Quillin hopes the new program can help turn things around for the Ravens in the Henlopen North.

Kane, the lone junior of the leadership group, is entering the season as the full-time starting quarterback after making a handful of starts as a sophomore behind then-senior Tyzhir Morris in 2017.

With Morris gone, the offense is now solely in the hands of Kane and he’s looking forward to taking on the role.

“He’s really a blessed athlete and he has so much to offer our team,” Quillin said of his quarterback. “Some of the things he has to offer aren’t necessarily his physical skills, it’s all the rest of the stuff that I think makes a player really special.”

“I think this is my breakout year,” Kane said, with a laugh. “We’ve been looking pretty good so far in practice. Coach has been working us hard and making sure we’re ready to go for the season. We’re going to take it one game at a time and just work hard to get better in practice.”

This preseason, Kane has been working with Tech’s quarterback coach Ethan Long. Quillin has already noticed Long’s results.

“His growth has been wonderful since last year,” he said of Kane’s development. “To be honest with you, the best thing I did was fire myself. I always start out with the quarterbacks and I think calling the defense and coaching the quarterbacks is a poor coaching decision.

“Now I have Ethan Long handle the quarterbacks and he is a great quarterback coach, he knows all the small things and he’s really the person who has helped Ricky grow and improve the most. I’ve seen a different player from August 15 to today – less than a week.”

With a more confident quarterback under center, Argo, Williams and Schirmer anchoring the offensive line and a couple of workhorse backs in Norsworthy and Hatfield, Quillin is excited with the development of his offense.

Juniors Kevin Custis (Indian River) and Jalen Snead (Indian River) and sophomore Conor Ellingsworth (Laurel) have all made the transfer to Tech and will provide additional depth to Quillin’s squad this season.

“We have a lot of transfers in this year, so we’re really starting to come along and build as a team,” Kane said.

“It’s been a blessing for us, so we’ve welcomed them as part of our Ravens family,” Quillin said of the transfers. “They’ve come in and blended in really nicely with the positive culture we’re building here.”

Ellingsworth made an impression during Tech’s scrimmage against William Penn Tuesday, Aug. 21, catching the eye of Quillin.

“He’s really been a blessing to us in regard to both the linebacker staff and the running back staff,” he said of Ellingsworth. “He’s the guy who I think really impressed me today as a workhorse. He really ran the ball hard, doesn’t say a word, ‘yes sir,’ ‘no sir.’ Just the type of kid you want on your team.”

Quillin expects to see Ellingsworth spell the starter Norsworthy at running back and rotate in with linebackers Tarryl Sturgis and Hatfield.

Quillin is happy to have a plethora of depth on both sides of the football, knowing he’ll need it for the long 10-week season.

“The season is so long, it’s so physical, that once we get in to conference play all the teams are really good – from Central, to Smyrna, to CR – and they’re all back-to-back,” he said. “So, for us to have three or four guys, or even just two guys, at each position that we could pull a guy out and bring someone else in and not skip a beat, that’s the blessing we’re hoping to have.”

Tech kicks off the 2018 regular season on the road at Milford High Friday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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