New Miami football at 3-0: Some big changes that helped this turnaround start

Jessie Hubbard, a 1989 Edgewood graduate, is the new head football coach at New Miami. SUBMITTED PHOTO
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Jessie Hubbard, a 1989 Edgewood graduate, is the new head football coach at New Miami. SUBMITTED PHOTO

After starting the 2018 football season with three straight losses, the New Miami Vikings understandably are worked up about opening this season 3-0, perhaps a bit too worked up for coach Jessie Hubbard’s taste.

“A senior posted on social media that we were going 10-0,” Hubbard said on Tuesday. “I had to calm him down real quick. He’s not a captain this week. Social media is the devil. They read what people write. They’re not used to much notoriety, to being in the Journal-News and on this website and that website. I can see, them being teenage kids, doing this and doing that.”

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Just as understandably, the keys to New Miami’s turnaround are many.

Two are the confidence and experience gained from rebounding from that 0-3 start to finish 6-4 overall and 5-0 in the Miami Valley Conference Gray Division and earn the program’s second Ohio High School Athletic Association playoff appearance and first since 2008.

A third is the motivation of getting trounced, 41-0, by Fort Loramie in the first round of the playoffs.

A fourth is the team getting used to the Wing-T and fullhouse backfield offenses installed by Hubbard and his coaching staff.

“The kids basically do everything we ask them to do,” the second-year coach said. “They practice hard. They know the offense. They had never played that style, but they’ve bought into what we’re doing.”

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That includes opening up the offense a bit, a lesson learned after Fort Loramie effectively stacked the box in last season’s finale. Junior quarterback-safety Trey Robinette already has 560 passing yards, which ranks third in the MVC.

“Last year, I think we had 500 yards passing for the entire season,” Hubbard said. “We had to do some things differently.”

Easing the transition was successfully convincing 5-foot-8, 160-pound junior basketball player Deanza Duncan to give football a shot. The flanker-cornerback leads the MVC with 454 receiving yards and an average of 30.3 yards per catch while ranking second with 15 catches – a conference-best five for touchdowns.

“He’s been a great weapon to have,” Hubbard said.

Perhaps the biggest reason for New Miami’s season-opening surge is a lockdown defense that has allowed a total of six points in three games. The Vikings has piled up 11 shutout quarters going into their MVC opener on Friday at St. Bernard.

“It’s been a lot better than we anticipated,” Hubbard said. “The scary part is a lot of the kids are going both ways. Our quarterback also plays safety. A running back is our strong safety. Our fullback also is our middle linebacker. The first thing we had to do was get the kids in shape. We knew they’d be on the field a lot. Then we had to simplify the defense so they didn’t have to do a lot of thinking. They could just line up and play. They’ve really adapted. They fly around. We’re getting 11 helmets to the ball. We’re causing fumbles and having fun.”

Duncan also has been a valuable addition to what Hubbard describes as an “old-school” 50 defense with three interceptions. Senior running back-defensive lineman Zach Trent leads the MVC with 4-1/2 sacks. Junior fullback-middle linebacker Dylan Spivey, the reigning MVC Gray Division Defensive Athlete of the Year, is tied for second with three sacks. Junior flanker-defensive end Jerry Helton is tied for fourth with two sacks. Sophomore running back-linebacker Jose Chavarria has a conference-leading two fumble recoveries.

Hubbard anticipates the defense might get even better with the imminent return of senior running back-defensive back Dan Spivey from a collarbone injury that knocked him out of action on the second play of the season.

“We lost a senior captain and our best player,” Hubbard said. “He ran the ball for, like, 12 yards and got up and his collarbone was going the wrong way. That’s been a big letdown. Knock on wood he’ll be back soon.”

Losing Dan Spivey did nothing to curb the enthusiasm around New Miami.

“Everybody’s excited,” Hubbard said. “They sell New Miami gear at school and they’ve actually been selling out. The principal (Kara Brakhage) said she’s never seen this happen before – running out of spirit wear. The players see people wearing the gear and that pumps them up.”