By Sean Pearson
Talking about the upcoming football season just five days after the summer solstice is akin to a death-wish when you’re among a group of summer-starved Alaskans. Certainly no one is looking forward to the arrival of falling leaves, cooler temperatures and the ever-impending threat of snow.
At least one Mariner Football fan, however, is eager to get off to a fresh football start for 2013.
Josh Fraley is that fan.
Having lived in Homer for more than 20 years, attended Homer High School from 1999-2003, played football all four years and acted as Assistant Mariner Football coach for the past 10 years, Fraley seems the perfect candidate to take over as Homer’s new head coach.
He replaces Camron Wyatt, who led the team to two consecutive winning seasons and two trips to State.
Despite a winning record and trip to the State Championship game, the 2012 season was a tough one for the Mariners. Challenging personal issues involving team members outside of the realm of football caused people in the community to have doubts about the program.
Mariner Football took a hit.
But Coach Fraley is ready to move on; leaving the past where it belongs and looking toward building the Mariners’ future.
With booster club woes threatening next year’s financial means, Fraley sat down to answer a few questions about the football program and its future.
Homer Tribune: You played football all four years of high school. What was the program like back then?
Fraley: “In my freshman season of 1999, the varsity team was 0-8 for the year. But, by my junior year, we set the record for the best season in school history at 6-2. Back then we still played teams like Colony, Wasilla and Palmer, so the competition was a little different.”
HT: Did you play any football before high school?
Fraley: “No. I came into the 1999 season having never played organized football before. It was quite an eye-opener. I was immediately drawn to the physicality if the sport and I love to play on the defensive side of the ball. Since I had no formal instruction on any of the techniques of the game, the instinctive aspect of defense is where I excelled initially.”
HT: Who did you learn most of your football from?
Fraley: “I had several great coaches, like Todd Phillips, Troy Minogue, Kelly Blake, Carlton Kuhns, Cam Wyatt, and my father Terry Fraley. I loved to play the middle linebacker position more than anywhere else in the field. I also played offensive line in the guard position, and full back in high school. And I went on to play middle linebacker in college.”
HT: Why football? What do you like about it?
Fraley: “I love the game of football for many reasons, but one of the most important parts of it for me is learning to persevere through situations that seemed impossible. I like finding skills and toughness that you didn’t know were in you until you’re in a difficult situation.”
HT: You’ve been an assistant coach for quite some time. Doesn’t the head coaching position require a lot more responsibility and time?
Fraley: “Yes. I chose to pursue the head coaching position after consulting my family and really thinking about the time and energy commitment that was going to be required to be effective in this position. With my assistant coaching experience, I have seen how much it can take out of a person, so I really thought it over before I committed. I took this opportunity because I believe in this program, this school and this community.”
HT: The program has definitely taken some time to develop. Do you think it will continue to build?
Fraley: “I know the work that’s been done in the last 15 or so years has made a positive impact on this community; Not only in the young men who play, but also the young women who manage and help take care of our players; the cheerleaders who undyingly support our team and school; the parents who have been drawn into this family we call Mariner Football. I am hoping to continue the past success that we have had in building this positive, safe, family atmosphere. And I’d like to win a few football games along the way.”
HT: You know it’s inevitable that people will talk about this change in the coaching staff. How do you plan to handle what will certainly be some inappropriate questions about the change?
Fraley: “I have not heard many rumors about the change, but I do know that there will be comparisons made. Cam Wyatt did a lot for this program and the youth of this community. His commitment and the sacrifices he made to help get this program where it is today should not be forgotten. I hope to add to, and surpass the success we have enjoyed in the past few years. My biggest goal is to instill a family atmosphere into the program and build the support of the community. We want people to come out and cheer these young men and women on.”
HT: Last year was good football-wise, but not so good in other areas. How do you move forward from last year’s problems?
Fraley: “That was an unfortunate incident last year, but I believe it has to do with a certain lack of respect that has been becoming more apparent in our youth. I feel it’s a big factor in this type of behavior. Lack of respect for property, family, school, authority, and each other had been becoming more common place for years. While I’m coaching the game of football, those lessons of respect and discipline go hand in hand with the right way to play the game and the right way to be a teammate. I hope to help rebuild respect for each other and especially self-respect through our program here at Homer High. I believe that moving on from last year is really as simple as that. Do things the right way and build on the strengths of this year’s team.
HT: What do you do to boost team morale after surviving a difficult season?
Fraley: “I really don’t see the need ‘lift the men up’ after last year. There’s no denying they were dealt a rough hand last year. But they were made mentally strong and learned a lot about character. I think they will be stronger because of those lessons. It certainly opened a lot of people’s eyes. If there is anything positive to take from last season, I believe that’s it.
HT: Who else will be part of your coaching staff this year?
Fraley: Rick Alexander and Scott Cardoza are officially on staff this year. I hope to have a few more coaches signed before the season starts. We are in need of experienced and positive coaches, so if anyone is interested, I would love to talk to them.”
HT: What are the booster club issues the football program faces?
Fraley: “The booster club was dissolved — I have no idea why — and we are in the process of restructuring and resubmitting the proper paperwork with the IRS and the State of Alaska. We really need an experienced and motivated businessman or woman who is willing to take on the position of president or vice president.
In years past, coaches have been forced (because of lack of volunteers) to take on roles in the booster club. That is not the way things are supposed to be done.
If anyone has time to come to our next meeting on Thursday at 6:30 p.m., they can really get a grasp of what’s going on. Once we are all legal again, then the community can help us raise funds and support these athletes.”
The Thursday booster club meeting will be held at the high school in room A-104. Supporters can also join the Facebook group, “Homer Mariner Football Booster” to get more information.
Comments are closed