North Marion assistant coach Josh Nay

North Marion assistant coach Josh Nay (left) lines up several players for drills during practice Wednesday in Rachel. The Huskies are working hard to try and overcome a lack of numbers and experience this season.

RACHEL — “An uphill battle.”

That’s how North Marion head football coach Gerry White described the upcoming 2006 season.

The Huskies completed their third day of practice Wednesday but lost three more players, according to White, knocking their total down to only 21 athletes.

“It’s pretty bleak,” White said. “We were up to 24, but had three no-shows today. They missed practice with no phone calls or anything, so we assume they’re gone for good.”

Couple the numbers problem with a lack of experience, and you start to see where White is coming from talking about an uphill battle. White said his team has only one senior, and he is a “rookie.”

“Right now our focus is on a good nucleus of juniors, about 12 of them,” White said. “That class has been with the program since they were freshmen, and all of them have stayed with it.

“We are kind of in a rebuilding mode.”

With a tough schedule ahead of them, White and the Huskies are just looking to improve each and every day.

“That’s our goal,” White said. “We want to improve from each practice to the next and from each week to the next. If we are a little bit better at the end of the year and still intact, I think we can feel good about ourselves.”

With the lack of players on the varsity level, White said he is discussing with his staff about moving some freshmen up.

“Hopefully, we have a good freshman class,” he said. “They report next week. We have had a lot of them coming to conditioning, so we are expecting about 30 or so to come out.”

The Huskies will probably have to make some changes in their offensive schemes to make up for the lack of experience and the loss of running backs Johnny Rogers and Lance Keezee, both of whom didn’t come out for the team this season.

“We are going to have to adjust as coaches,” White said. “I’ve always been a two-back coach, but we may have to adjust our strategy and put something together that’ll give the kids a chance for some success. We are going to have to be a little innovative.”

Rogers rushed for more than 1,000 yards the past two seasons, including setting the school mark with 305 yards on the ground against Elkins in 2004. Keezee was just starting to come into his own in the backfield last year.

“It wasn’t a big surprise,” White said about the two. “I didn’t see them all summer and heard the rumors that they might not play. But I’m not going to dwell on them, because we have to focus on the players that we’ve got.”

While things are hard right now in Rachel, White had some simple advice.

“Stay patient,” he said. “That’s what we are trying to do. We just have to be positive and keep working to try to get things turned back around.”

E-mail Mike Bowen at mbowen@timeswv.com.

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