North-South coaching nod an honor for Workman

(Brad Davis/The Register-Herald) Liberty's Ryan Simms carries the ball on a kick return against Independence Oct. 18, 2019, in Glen Daniel.

Accolades and awards are great, but they are not what drives Liberty head football coach Mark Workman. The driving force for Workman is player success, both on and off the field.

"After having a career playing football, what inspires me is looking at my career and seeing the things I did wrong and trying to help these young kids today not make the same mistakes," Workman said. "I just kinda live through them with coaching and watching them succeed."

Although accolades are not at the top of his list, Workman did receive a huge nod recently when he was asked by Greenbrier East head coach Ray Lee to be an assistant coach for the South Cardinals at the North-South Football Classic in June.

"I felt really honored with Coach Lee wanting me to help out this year," Workman said. "It is just a great honor to be a part of that game."

Considering Workman has only been a head coach for a total of three years — all at Liberty — and what he has weathered over those years, it makes the appointment even more special and well deserved.

The Liberty football program has had its fair share of success. However, when Workman took over as head coach before the 2017 season, the team was in a state of transition.

Youth, inexperience and low numbers all had taken their toll, as they often do in the cyclical world of small town football.

"It was tough," Workman said. "During my tenure at Liberty as an assistant coach, we had some really good players and some really good years. We built that winning tradition, but my last year as an assistant wasn't real good."

Workman and the Raiders endured a well-documented 25-game skid before a win over Wyoming East snapped the drought in the last game of the 2018 season.

The win brought great relief to the struggling program. However, one win over a two-year span in your first head coaching stint can beat a coach down. Workman stayed positive and asked his kids to trust the system.

"The spirit of the team comes from the top down," Workman said. "If us coaches come in, and me as the head coach comes in all dejected over where we're at, that will filter down to the kids. We try to coach a positive attitude at all times."

In year three under Workman, Liberty ran off three straight wins to open the season before finishing 4-6 as a result of some untimely injuries and a need to get bigger and stronger in the trenches.

"We went 4-6 and we really felt like we should have beat Summers County and we should have beat Clay County. We had every opportunity to beat Wyoming East," Workman explained. "We played Shady (Spring) and Independence tough for about 2 1/2 quarters before their size and strength took over. The attitude was upbeat at the end of the season. They were really looking forward to getting in the weight room and getting the season started."

However, team workouts were forced to be stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting the Raiders' self discipline to the test.

"I try to preach an individual approach, along with team approach," Workman said. "If we do our jobs individually, then we all do our job as a team, we are going to be successful. (The virus) has affected everybody, for sure. Us coaches can come up with things for the kids to do on their own, but these are high school kids. Some are going to do it and some are not going to do it."

This offseason is crucial for the Raiders, who will return enough talent to put them in the postseason conversation.

"I think we are knocking on the door. There is still a lot of things that need to fall into place for us here," Workman said. "We are going to have some decent skill guys and we will have a veteran quarterback. Isaac (Atkins) will be back and we will have a veteran receiver and tough defensive cornerback in Braden Howell. The big question for us is up front again. What is our size and strength going to be like up front?" 

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