Castellano leads Raiders in practice

Shawn Stinson|Daily Journal New Richmond Senior football coach Mike Castellano, center, and assistant coach Brad Denson work with the team on a punt block drill Wednesday afternoon.

ROCKINGHAM — New Richmond Senior football coach Mike Castellano has been a busy man.

After accepting the job and being approved by the school board, Castellano has had to find a place to live in Richmond County, pack up the things in his old apartment, move his belongings to his “home” and continue teaching at Middle Creek as well as meet with his new athletic director and be introduced to the faculty at Richmond.

In addition to all that, Castellano still has to do his main job — coach. Castellano said Wednesday afternoon was the first time he has been able to attend and lead one of Richmond’s spring practices.

“Right now (I’m) just trying to get to know everybody…players and coaches and trying to evaluate the best I can,” Castellano said. “These coaches know these guys a lot better than I do. Some of the tweaks basically have been generic things, such as what happens if you drop a pass? What happens if guys don’t hustle on the field? Things such as how we’re going to punt a football. How we’re going to try and down it inside the 5. Things that aren’t necessarily specific to what we want to do scheme-wise, but more general things of how we want to play the game.”

Until Castellano was named as Richmond’s 10th head coach in the school’s history, longtime assistant coach Mike Kesler has been leading the charge during the spring period. The period allows unlimited skill development without contact. NCHSAA rules allow the period to begin 10 days prior to the start of the school’s state-mandated final exam bloc.

Without an idea of the philosophies the new coach would bring to Richmond, Kesler said the opening practices were all about basics for the players on both sides of the ball.

“The first two days were totally fundamental. The third day we started working on special teams, and that’s where he started tweaking,” Kesler said. “The defense is starting to install…offense we are still fundamentals. We did put in one of his drills for pass release in our passing game. That’s just to work with the DBs. We are still fundamentals, we’re not anywhere close to putting anything in. We’ll start installing the offense in the summer.”

Kesler added the main focus of the spring period is working on players’ position skills. He feels that even being shorthanded, things have gone well.

“A lot places in positions our coaches are doubled up right now,” Kesler said. “We brought all the returning varsity guys and the guys that are at the Ninth-Grade Academy who played some JV last year for us, we brought up and are really working with them. We just thought logistically it was too hard to get everybody over here. They’re really getting a lot of good fundamental coaching.”

Castellano understands he is a little behind where he wants Richmond to be right now because of the daily three-hour commute and accepting the position last week as well as trying to get coaches and players to understand his views and philosophies.

“First and foremost, I think anything you do it’s about people. The first priority is to make sure the staff is finalized…(and) the kids understand our expectations,” Castellano said. “And then from that point now is getting everything else set up structure-wise. As coaches, we have been working on the schedule for the last couple of days in practice trying to get the month of June done, then we can move into July. That’s kind of where we’re at now. It’s a whirlwind process, but at the end of the day, it’s the job that it is.”

Reach managing editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.