“The herd hunts together, but waits for no one.”
That short, yet blunt nine-word mantra sums up a new attitude and era at Florence High School and a good season begins now, as the Buffaloes are in the middle of the program’s first strength and conditioning training camp under new athletic director Joey McQueen.
“We’re going to be in this together to change this place, and if you don’t want to be a part of the herd, we’re not going to wait on you,” McQueen said.
McQueen took over as head football coach and athletic director on Jan. 6. He has established himself as a turnaround specialist after successful stints in Lampasas, Smithville and San Angelo Lake View.
The Buffs had 79 athletes show up to the first afternoon workout last week. That number didn’t drop off much during the holiday week as approximately 70 student-athletes participated in Monday’s drills.
The turnout gives McQueen some encouragement about the future of the athletic department. On the football side, he knows the seeds for a successful season are planted during the spring and summer.
“It’s kind of like putting money in a bank,” McQueen said. “If you don’t put money in the bank and it’s not your money, you’re not going to work very hard for it.”
McQueen takes over a program that has won just 13 games in the last five years, last made the playoffs in 2001 and has made it to the postseason only twice in 55 years.
Florence has developed a reputation as a struggling program, especially after a 1-9 season in 2013. The 2014 edition of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine picked Florence to finish last in a six-team District 10-3A, Division I.
McQueen said that in 25 years as a head coach, his teams have only been picked to win the district two or three times. But he feels that teams lining up across from Florence won’t see the same old Buffaloes.
“We’re going to put a team on the field that’s going to be prepared, the little things are going to be done right and, because of that, we’re excited about what we’re going to put on the field as a team,” McQueen said.
Linebacker and running back Reid Shillingburg is participating in his final offseason drills since he’s entering his senior season at Florence. He’s noticed the new energy around summer workouts and said that big numbers make the camp more fun.
“The more people come, the better we’re going to do next football season,” Shillingburg said.
But it’s not all testosterone at the camp as members of various Lady Buff teams also participate in the summer strength and conditioning program. During the opening day, 34 girls came out for the program and McQueen credits head volleyball coach Kelly Stephens with spreading the word and helping the turnout.
One of Stephens’ players that participated in the camp is defensive specialist Taylor Navarette. Navarette said that in addition to making individuals bigger, faster and stronger, it helps the team develop camaraderie and jell.
For her, the countdown to the season has already begun.
“I’m really excited to start the season, being a senior and everything,” Navarette said.
“It’s going to be my last year, but I think it’s going to be a pretty good year.”
McQueen got to Florence just in time to watch Brooklynne Owens and the Lady Buffs softball team make the Class 2A playoffs for the first time in school history. Owens will be a senior in in the 2015 season and said the camp can help the team not just return to the playoffs, but advance.
“We were telling each other once we finished that first series against Crawford that next year we want to get further,” Owens said. “Next year we want to win all the games in the playoffs and hopefully, win state.”
During the workouts, the athletes are broken up into three groups with one going to the sand pit for agility work, one will go to the track for speed work and the last will be in the weight room.
It takes 25-30 minutes to go through each station.
Senior Tyler Salis was one of those participants and, for him, it was good to get back at it. Salis missed his junior year on the Florence baseball team due to an injured right knee.
“I look at the summer workouts as getting better in my rehab,” Salis said. “I think the environment that Coach McQueen has given us makes people want to come out, too.”