Fishburne football ready for Covenant, Parents Military Weekend crowd

fms1The 0-2 start to the 2015 Fishburne Military School football season didn’t concern first-year head coach Chip Hill. The late start to training camp and the issues with weather limiting practice time put the Caissons behind schedule, and FMS opened with two opponents – Fuqua and Roanoke Catholic – that are expected to compete for state playoff bids.

“We played two very good opponents right out of the blocks, and they were tough. But we’ve progressed since then, and we feel like we have things really rolling along,” said Hill, whose team has turned things around, big time.

Fishburne has won its last three games by an average score of 39-3, the most recent win a 25-0 whitewash of rival Massanutten Military Academy on Oct. 10.

Next up for FMS: Covenant (3-3) on Friday at Anderson Field against the backdrop of Parents Military Weekend.

“There’s a lot of weight on our shoulders. Parents are here, alumni are here. We need to get ready for this game and stay focused,” said Shaheen Alfarhan, a senior offensive and defensive lineman from Kuwait in his second year on the varsity.

Hill, a Caissons assistant coach for three years before taking the head job this fall, knows how big the weekend is for Fishburne Nation.

“It’s the biggest weekend of the fall, perhaps of the year. It’s electrically charged. The cadets are certainly ramped up,” said Hill, noting that the challenge for the coaching staff will be trying to “downplay some of that excitement.”

“You still have to play a football game. You still have to play an opponent who’s a very good opponent. They’ve won three games this year. This game will be a challenge for us. If we put our best foot forward Friday, it will be a real good football game. If we do anything less than that, we could embarrass ourselves,” Hill said.

The players know the stakes as well.

“We just need to keep our heads straight, and good things can happen,” said Tyler Dolin, a sophomore from Waynesboro who is the starting center on offense and a linebacker in Hill’s 5-2 defensive front.

The key to the turnaround from the early-season struggles has been that level of buy-in.

“Once we started to get things down, I honestly think that we’re playing really well. I think we have a chance to be really good,” Alfarhan said.

Hill looks for the team to continue to progress as the season marches on.

“It took a couple of weeks for us to get seeded. But once the schemes started to get grasped, it started to get better. We have a lot of room to grow, but I feel good about where our heads are right now,” Hill said.

– Story by Chris Graham


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