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There are some unknowns surrounding the Midland Valley football program, but one thing is certain, the Mustangs will enter the 2019 season with a new head coach and a new approach.

Former Dutch Fork assistant Kenneth Freeman took over as the head coach during the offseason. He's implemented some new things on both offense and defense that have the players excited and that he hopes leads to success.

"We've seen a lot of commitment. The commitment is there and we're moving forward," Freeman said.

On offense Freeman is especially excited about quarterback Harper Puckett. Puckett is back as the starter for a second season. He passed for 1,414 yards and 14 touchdowns.

"His confidence has really gone up. He's really taken to our system," Freeman said. "He has really fit in quickly. The passing game is coming along nice."

BJ Staley and Chris Jowers will be some of Puckett's main targets at receiver. Terran Meriwether has also developed well at tight end. The offense also will be boosted by the return of Kendrique Starlings, who missed most of last season with an injury.

Freeman said the offense would mix it up, and his team won't shy away from passing the ball around.

"Well, I love 3 yards and a cloud of dust, but that doesn't sell tickets," Freeman joked. "So we'll be multiple and try to throw as much as we run."

As for that run game Freeman's new approach has already started to show its advantages in the players' eyes.

"I think with the new system we have in place it allows us to read our assignments easier. We can get to the second level and allow our running backs to get to the second level," offensive lineman Blane Arthur said. 

Freeman pledged that his defense would be multiple as well. It all starts up front. Freeman spoke highly of defensive ends Keioryie Wright and Lane Owenby.

"I'm looking forward to getting into the backfield and making big plays, and win some games," Owenby said.

Midland Valley opens the season against Lakeside (Ga.) at home. Region play starts Oct. 4 against Airport. The Mustangs are looking to improve on their 0-10 record from 2018.

"I'm happy to be working with (coach) Freeman," Michael Johnson said. "I feel like if we do our job we can keep going in the season to the playoffs to leave our mark here and show why Midland Valley's still a team to not just push to the side. We're a problem for any team in the area."

‚ÄčEric Russell is the multimedia editor at the Aiken Standard. Contact him at 803-644-2396.