DANSVILLE — Terry Conway has been a staple in the Dansville football community for as long as most people can remember. And while his official capacity with the program has finally come to an end in 2017, his hand-picked replacement of Rich Welch to take over as head coach ensures that the values Conway instilled over his career will continue under the steady guidance of Welch.

“We are just really excited. We are trying to do a lot of new things here and just building on what Terry Conway did. He laid the groundwork and he did a great job,” said Welch. “He was kind of a mentor to me for the last two seasons. He set it up, and I got two years of learning things after what was kind of a trial run.”

“During school, (Coach Welch) is pretty laid back as a phys. ed. teacher, and that’s how I knew him before he was my coach. But then he started to coach last year, and now he’s our head coach and we are starting to see that side of him that’s like, ‘we need to get this done.’ That’s been cool to see both sides, and it’s great to see the drive in him,” said Rosica. 

But more than just building on those values, Welch also happens to know a thing or two about what it takes to build a successful program, and he’s starting with that right away.

Welch’s mantra in the early stages of the season has been a time-tested philosophy of simply making sure that the players get better with each passing day. It’s simple, but it’s something that the leaders of the Mustangs have already bought into.

“The big theme is to just get better every day. Every single day. Might not be huge margins, but we want to think, ‘I did this well on Monday, and I want to do this much better on Tuesday.’ That’s what the entire coaching staff has been talking about,” said Welch.

Led by two players in particular — Nick Rosica and Austin Simpson — the Mustangs are entering this season excited at the prospect of fostering a culture that will not only lead to success this season, but in years to come as well.

“Nick Rosica has been bouncing around at different positions, but he’s basically a utility guy that we can put anywhere,” said Welch. “Austin Simpson is only a junior, but like Nick, he’s one the most highly dedicated kids. They both come ready to go every single day, and they set the tone for the rest of the team.”

“We are running a new offense and defense and I’ve been trying to help guys figure that out. The coaching staff is entirely different, just because they are different people. I’ve just been focusing on getting what they need done,” said Rosica. “Great leaders don’t always just get things done themselves, but great leaders help other people get things done, and that’s just what I’ve been focusing on.”

“I came to varsity and JV workouts over the summer just to show everyone that I was here to work hard. I was here every single day lifting in the weight room,” said Simpson. “I just wanted to show everyone that I was ready to do the work.”

As for on the field, the biggest change in the program will undoubtedly be the offensive scheme. In years past, Dansville has relied heavily on running in between the tackles, and was focused on moving the ball down the field at a steady pace. This year, things will be opened up a little bit more, thanks to the speed that several of the players possess. And with a slightly undersized offensive line, it will force defenses to react much more quickly instead of being able to apply heavy pressure up the middle.

“We will spread stuff out, but with that said, if we could run every single play and make it work we would go with that. I do think that’s the key to high school football,” said Welch. “I wouldn’t mind three yards a pop, but I’ll also take more than three yards. Whatever we can make work.”

“Yeah not many of our guys are very big, and a lot of teams we play are powerhouses. But we have some speedy guys, and this offense really fits us. Even our lineman may not be the biggest, but they have some speed. Really, it all just matches up,” said Simpson.

While Dansville opened camp with a quarterback competition, it was not because of a lack of talent. Between Tanner Dedman and Dylan Race, the Mustangs have two players with the ability to not only contribute at the QB position, but several others on the field as well.

“We’ve got two kids that will both be on the field regardless of who is playing quarterback. They’ll both contribute on the field, it really just depends on what position they are at,” said Welch. 

With having to learn an entirely new system on offense, Welch has been doing everything to keep things simple on the other side of the ball. The defense will use several different base set and allow the natural talent of the athletes to make the right plays at the right times in order to keep opposing offenses off of the scoreboard.

“We want to get as much done as we can with our base sets. We want to get good at what we do most, and throw in some wrinkles here and there. Keep it simple,” said Welch. “I think the more we can do with our base, the better we will be.”

Dansville starts the season on the road on Sept. 1 when it visits LeRoy. The Mustangs then return home on Sept. 8 for a game against Bath-Haverling before heading on the road again on Sept. 15 to Livonia. After a home game against Cal-Mum/BB on Sept. 22, Dansville is back on the road for two weeks as it travels to Wayland-Cohocton on Sept. 29 and Hornell on Oct. 6. The Mustangs then wrap up the regular season on Oct. 13 with a home game against Wellsville. 

“Right now, we are feeling pretty good because we are starting to pick the offense up. It’s been tough, but with every new day I think we are learning and growing more confident. The coaches know their stuff and are helping us out a bunch. And as long as we keep learning, our confidence will keep growing,” said Rosica.