CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — What Scott Werdebaugh is experiencing these days almost certainly makes him think back a decade ago.
Werdebaugh, hired as the Notre Dame High School football coach last month, held the same position at Trinity in 2009. That was the Warriors’ inaugural season, when they put together a roster of 21 players en route to a 2-8 record.
It was just a one-year experiment, however, as Trinity discontinued football the following season after Werdebaugh’s resignation for what he cited as personal business reasons.
Now a month into his tenure with the Irish, Werdebaugh assures Notre Dame will have a football team for the upcoming season despite offseason speculation that suggested otherwise.
“The numbers are low, but we have a core group of kids that have bought into the program,” Werdebaugh said. “We’re still continuing to reach out to other kids to try to get them out. When this coaching change took place, school was out so they don’t really know me or the other coaches and how we go about things.
“I think I have an advantage, because I’ve had to learn to adapt practice schedules with lower numbers. It’s a heck of a lot easier to practice with 35 kids rather than 20. There’s a fine line between keeping kids in shape and wearing them out and you have to have all types of contingency plans.”
Although it’s been a while since Werdebaugh coached football, he has an extensive past on the sidelines.
Prior to his stint at Trinity, Werdebaugh was an assistant at three high schools in Maryland — Southern Garrett (his alma mater), Brunswick and Middletown. He was defensive coordinator at Suncrest Middle School for a season, helped run a youth league in Cheat Lake for seven years and worked at West Virginia University football camps when Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart were the head coach.
Now back at another Class A private school in the north central region of West Virginia, Werdebaugh is excited for the challenge.
“I love football and working with kids and being able to build a positive culture to try to make a difference with our kids,” he said. “I want to help them become good leaders in the future and learn a few things on the football field that can help them now and later in life.”
Werdebaugh is hopeful the Irish will have at least 15 players when practice begins August 5, though he realizes it’s up to he and ND’s four assistant coaches to increase that number between then and the August 30 season opener against Pendleton County.
“School starts August 12 and then I can address entire student body,” Werdebaugh said. “I think when it’s all said and done and things play out, we’ll have between 18 and 22 kids. if they come out the first two or three days of school, we can get them 14 practices in to have them eligible for that first game.”
It’ll certainly be a different feel for the Irish, who will be playing their first season since 2001 without Sam Alvaro as head coach. Alvaro recorded 92 victories in 17 years as NDHS head coach.
“Sam was there a total of 24 years and had some good teams. He took them to the playoffs several times and we want to build on the success he had,” Werdebaugh said. “To me, if we didn’t have a team this year, we’d likely not have one for four or five years.
“We have to find a way to not only have a team, but field one that’s competitive. Actions speak louder than words and we need to make things happen. We want kids to understand if you come to Notre Dame, you’ll be better people and football players.”