Winamac football preview: Players adjusting to new coach Hendryx’s defense-first philosophy
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Hired just over three months ago, John Hendryx will make his debut as Winamac football coach when the Warriors host North White at 7 p.m. Friday.
His task is to help reverse the fortunes of a program coming off three straight 5-6 seasons since winning its last sectional title in Tim Roth’s farewell season in 2016.
Accomplishing that task in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t made the job easier. A positive coronavirus test within the school body forced the season to start late. Games against Knox and Pioneer have already been canceled.
“We had our July period where we had about eight practice situations, and we had some weightlifting situations in there as well,” Hendryx said. “Obviously, since the season has started, we’ve had an odd start. We got about a week and a half of practice in, and then we had to take a week off. And then we got started again (Aug. 17), so it’s not been normal to say the least.”
When practice did begin, five players were not allowed to practice because they are being quarantined.
“Once this hits you, there’s just not much you can do about it,” Hendryx said. “I don’t think anybody’s shocked anymore with the current situation when things happen. Disappointed, I think, would be probably a better word. But shocked? I don’t think anything the way society is right now would be very shocking. My fear is we get everybody back, we get things going again, and it happens again, which - knock on wood that it doesn't - but we know that it can.”
The good news is that numbers are up from last year despite the virus. Hendryx counts 46 players that came out for football.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Hendryx said. “Having numbers is great, but we want kids with strength, kids that know what’s going on. We’re just in a pretty good learning curve that we’re in right now, but to their credit, they’re working their tail off. You can’t really ask any more out of them.”
Hendryx, who coached Carroll (Flora) to the Class 1A state title in 1995 and who coached Knox to their first ever sectional title in 2019, said it’s not just a coaching change that has occurred but rather a philosophy change.
Hendryx said he’s a defense-first coach. He’s brought a 4-3 defense with him from Knox. With a different playbook and terminology, he said that for the players, it’s like learning a foreign language.
“I don’t have anything negative to say about them,” Hendryx said of his players. “They’ve jumped in. They have got a pretty good handle on things. We’re just now getting to the point where we’ve got the base offense and defense in, and we can start adding things in. Missing a week of practice - basically 10 days - put that schedule pretty far behind. You just have to deal with it and move on.”
Hendryx, a 1980 Winamac grad, will also be the offensive coordinator. Josh Burgess will be the defensive coordinator. Everybody on the coaching staff, including Hendryx’s brother Mark, is also a Winamac grad. Yet John Hendryx is the only member of the coaching staff who has never coached at Winamac before.
“So it’s more for me,” Hendryx said when asked about how he had had to adjust. “The school, just how things are done. The school days here, they don’t get out until 3:20. That’s the longest school day that I’ve had to put in forever. And Wednesday here is family night. You have to be off the practice field at 5:15, so I’d say most of that adjustment has had to come from me myself.”