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HHF/GID Interview with Western Boone Head Coach Justin Pelley


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Guest DT
HHF Interview with Western Boone Head Coach Justin Pelley
 
WeBo steps up to 3A after ripping off 3 straight 2A state championships. Still, the Stars will take it one game at a time.
 
Thanks for visiting with us at Hoosier High School Football Coach Pelley ,
 
Question 1
You've had a good look at your team through summer drills and 7 on 7 competitions over the past two months. What are your observations as you head into the final month of preparations before the season opens, where do you see this team's strengths, and what areas are deficient and need improvement?
Response
Last year we started 8-10 underclassmen and we experienced some growing pains early. Those growing pains eventually paid off for us in the post season and we are ahead of where we normally are due to the number of players that we return with experience. While I might be in the minority, we don't do a lot of 7 on 7 competitions during the summer. We go out on the field for one hour a week and that is it. This year we did not scrimmage with anyone. Instead, we choose to focus on ourselves and feel that our younger players benefit from asking them to give us a look during the summer. Our practices are efficient, and our kids will be excited when August 2nd rolls around next week. I don't want the start of football season to feel like the middle of football season. I want our kids to play other sports and be kids. I want them to cherish every day of football season and not burn them out in the summer.
 
Question 2
How would you assess the general health of your football program in terms of overall numbers, skill level, strength and speed development, and game day execution of your offensive and defensive schemes and philosophies?
Response
We currently have 65 players on our roster which, in my opinion, is just about the perfect number for a school of our size. We have added roughly 15-20 players total over the past nine years which is a good sign. We had a record number of kids attend youth camp this summer, so I feel that our program is currently in better shape than it ever has been.
We have established an offensive and defensive scheme that works for us and the returning experience has allowed us to install more this summer than in years past. Our strength and speed development programs are, in my opinion, what separates us from other schools our size. The corporation is committed to strength and conditioning from the top down and we have been fortunate to have tremendous support from the community as well as knowledgeable instructors. Nate Birk is in charge of our school wide strength and conditioning program and has a background in speed development which has benefited all student athletes at Western Boone.
 
Question 3
Coach, your program is coming off of an incredible run of 3 state titles in 3 years, culminating in the thrilling 36-35 win over Bishop Luers last season. What are your reflections on these past 3 seasons, and as your program bumps up to Class 3A due to the Success Factor, how are your kids responding to this new challenge and handling all the success they have experienced?
Response
The last three seasons have taken us all on a wild ride of which we will cherish for the rest of our lives. The support in and around our community is unique and Western Boone is a special place with a lot of tremendous people. We pride ourselves on hard work and doing the little things right. It has been a lot of fun to share our success with those who support our program. The tradition and culture of Western Boone football was established long before I arrived in 2013. Alumni support is off the charts and we currently have seven former Western Boone players on our staff. Specifically, Defensive Coordinator Travis Brunes and O-Line Coach Matthan Gadbury have been with me from day one and have been instrumental to our consistency and the success of our program.
We are excited to see how we measure up to other 3A schools around the state. My greatest concern after the 2018 season was how would our kids respond to winning a state title? Our kids in 2019 responded with a business-like attitude and I credit our coaches and players alike for being able to maintain their focus after winning. We have always taken one game at a time and do not get ahead of ourselves. We pride ourselves on doing the little things right and taking nothing for granted. Last year (2020) was much of the same. No one gave us much of a chance last year, but our kids continued to work and they continued to improve. I can only hope that the 2021 team has learned from those that came before them and will continue to be humble and competitive every time they step on the field.
 
Question 4
What is the core identity of your football program today, your primary offensive and defensive philosophies, and who are some of the top returning players on offense, defense and special teams for the Stars?
Response
Our philosophy is to execute a ball control offense that aims to control the clock and keeps our defense fresh. We run the spread option (flex) that forces teams to be assignment sound. Our objective is to gain 3 yards a play on offense and wear the opposition down on defense. We typically don't turn the ball over very often and focus on eliminating mental errors / penalties. Our defense is known for playing selfless football and getting 11 to the ball. While we will always put our best athletes on the field, we should be very close to being able to operate a two platooned system which hopefully helps us compete in our conference and at the 3A level. We return a total of 16 starters on offense and defense combined and another 4 on special teams.
 
Question 5
WeBo is one of the smaller schools in the Sagamore but still your team has dominated league play for several seasons. What is your general assessment of the Sagamore today, do you see any programs on the upswing, and what do you like to do with your non conference scheduling to help to prepare your team for post season play?
Response
The Sagamore Conference is one of the best conferences in the state. While we do not get all of the publicity that the larger schools do, our conference is generally represented well into the state tournament year in and year out. In addition to our success, Tri-West has won their fair share of state titles over the past twenty years and Danville reached the final game this past year in 3A. I believe all of the teams in our conference benefit from playing one another and the coaches in our conference are some of the best, and most respected, in the state.
We open up with the Professor Bud Wright and the Sheridan Blackhawks. While Sheridan is the only school on our schedule smaller than us, they play us close year in and year out and beat us last year. To this day, no one makes better halftime adjustments than Coach Wright. Giving the winningest coach in Indiana 9+ months to prepare for what we do is always a challenge and one that we appreciate and embrace.
We play Western week two and feel this is a great game to prepare us for conference play. Western is a 4A school and the only school to have defeated us each of the last two years. Playing quality opponents helps us to see where we are and what we need to work on prior to conference play.
 
Question 6
The Success Factor has now been in play for several years, with an objective to maintain competitive balance in the post season tournament. As your program is now directly impacted, are you a supporter of the SF, and do you believe it has achieved its objective? Do you see any unintended consequences as well? Additionally, would you like to see seeding in the state tournament?
Response
I think that the success factor, like anything else, has its benefits and downfalls. We are excited for the challenge and our goal is to see if we can win a Sectional at the 3A level which is something that Western Boone has yet to accomplish. I think that the system has shown, in some cases, that it works. I refer to New Palestine and Pioneer recently who have jumped up and been competitive at the next level. I do think that the success factor does have some unintended consequences. Teams can have 1-2 solid classes come through and be responsible for the majority of a team's success. In some cases, the younger kids on teams will in a way be penalized for the success of players who have graduated and no longer in high school.
 
Question 7
We have spoken at length about the growing need for a dedicated strength and conditioning program with many coaches from throuought the state. Some schools are more fortunate than others to have the resources in place to fund coaching and better equipment to assist in the development of their student athletes. How would you assess your strength and conditioning program at WeBo and how does it compare against the type of schools you would expect to see deep into the tournament?
Response
Our strength program is a big reason for our recent success. The commitment and buy in by parents and players alike is not common. We have 65 players on our team and 59 of them made at least 17/20 workouts this summer. Most of the absences are due to travel ball, 4H or family vacation which we encourage. Regardless of the reason, it is still counted as an absence and yet we still averaged around 95% attendance each day. Western Boone is invested and committed to our strength program, and I work personally with our athletic department to make sure we have all of the necessary tools required to improve our strength and speed. Funds raised by our football team can and will be used to improve our weight room when necessary. If it makes us better, we will find a way to get it. I think that commitment to the weight room and tournament success goes hand in hand. Sure, you can have players who are just better than everyone, but consistent success requires a foundation regardless of talent level. Our strength program is the basis for everything we do.
 
Question 8
What are your expectations and goals for the 2021 season , and do you see any darkhorse candidates looking to make a move in 3A and become a factor in the post season tournament?
Response
We expect to compete in every game we play in. People often ask me about our team goals, and we have had the same goal from day one in August of 2013. Our goal is to win the next game. We don't sit down as a team and talk about winning the conference, the sectional or the State title. Rather, we only talk about winning the next game. I have always believed that if you take it one game at a time and put all of your efforts into each week all of those other "goals" that people set will take care of themselves. I am anxious to see how we measure up in 3A. We will be prepared and let the chips fall where they may. There are so many good teams around the state. We don't have to look far to find Danville and Tri-West in our conference and Brebeuf, Guerin Catholic and West Lafayette in our Sectional. All five of those teams are ranked in the top 12 pre-season poll.
 
Question 9
You have accomplished more in a very short period than most coaches do over a full career. Do you have any aspirations to coach at the big school level, or possibly even move on to college coaching as an assistant or a coordinator with an eye toward a future head coaching position?
Response
I have been lucky to have been associated with some very passionate and innovative coaches who have sacrificed so much for the betterment of our program. Our players are respectful, coachable, and work hard day in and day out. No one person is responsible for our success, and we pride ourselves in doing our job and contributing to the team in whatever way we can as players, coaches, and parents.
I have been around football and education all my life. I was lucky to find a place, in Western Boone, that has supported me, and my family, from my first day on campus in 2013. The Western Boone Community is where I want to raise my kids and where I want to continue coaching for as long as I am able. I have spent time at the 6A level and even spent a few years coaching at the collegiate level when I was younger. While I would not trade those experiences, I personally enjoy the small school atmosphere and I am not looking to jump to a bigger school.
A few years back Lance Scheib conducted several interviews with the Legends of Indiana High School Football. I watched and listened to every one of those interviews and I vividly remember two things that were hit on by several of the coaches interviewed and have stuck with me to this day.
20k dollars won't change your life.
If you have the Administrative and community support necessary to run a first-class football program paired with dedicated hard-working athletes and your family is happy . . . why would you ever leave???
Go STARS !!!
 
 
Thanks Coach, and best of luck in the coming fall season.
Tim Phillips
Hoosier High School Football
The Gridiron Digest

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Edited by DT
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  • Guest changed the title to HHF/GID Interview with Western Boone Head Coach Justin Pelley
50 minutes ago, southend said:

Man, this guy is an all star! No BS here.  He has the stuff.. I’m reeling in all these interviews, but this guy may take the cake. 

Each interview gets better than the last. 

50 minutes ago, southend said:

Man, this guy is an all star! No BS here.  He has the stuff.. I’m reeling in all these interviews, but this guy may take the cake. 

If I was an aspiring your coach, I’d be documenting all of these. Great advice. Great goals. Great interview answers. Excellent. 

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We are blessed to have him as our coach. The team and the community is 110% behind him and would go to war for him. He is a class act on and off the field. 

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Guest DT

I am incredibly impressed with these young Indiana high school coaches.  And they are pushing the old school guys to either adapt or hit the Lazy Boy and retire.

Such is the Circle of Life.

 

 

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