If Shane Sieben ever hesitates, he isn’t showing it now, especially not after his Rock Creek football team dropped its first game of the season Friday night.
Sieben, the first-year head coach at Rock Creek, couldn’t guide the Mustangs to a win over Riley County. The loss extended the Mustangs’ losing streak to 10 games, dating back to their winless 2018 season in which they went 0-9.
Losing streak aside, Sieben said he knew what went wrong against Riley County.
“We just had some assignment errors — both defensively and offensively,” Sieben said. “Blocking up front, and coverage-wise on the back end. Just little things that cost you a step or two here and there. Riley was good enough to make us pay for it.”
Part of the challenge Sieben accepted in January, when he took the job, is this: Turn around the program, which hasn’t recorded a winning season since 2012. Since then, the Mustangs have amassed a 12-42 record, all under former head coach Mike Beam.
A quick refresher: Beam didn’t end his Mustang tenure on the highest of notes, but he’s nearly synonymous with Rock Creek football. Before he stepped down, he had been the program’s head coach for all but one year of its existence, immortalizing him around the area.
Yet when the job opened and Sieben grabbed it, he didn’t do so expecting to replace Beam, not exactly.
“Gosh, man, I’m never going to fill his shoes,” said Sieben, who also is Rock Creek’s head baseball coach. “He’s one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. Just an unbelievable dude. Very strong in his faith and goes about life the right way. I’m not ever going to fill his shoes. I’m not going to try to fill his shoes. I’m not Mike Beam. I’m never going to be Mike Beam.”
Rather, Sieben said, he’s forging a different path forward. Not better, not worse — just different. He created it around the roster he inherited.
Right now, that means preparing for Rock Creek’s road matchup with St. Marys on Friday night.
“We’re not focusing on, ‘We have to win’ or ‘We can’t lose,’” Sieben said. “We don’t talk about that. We don’t worry about that. We’re focused on the process. It’s ‘process over outcome,’ and if we take care of the process, if we fall in love with the process, the outcome will take care of itself. The results will take care of themselves. The wins will come.”
In part, the process has meant installing an entirely new offense. Sieben prefers a spread look. He wants to provide space to operate for the team’s skill players: quarterback Charlie Killingsworth, along with speedy threats Bryant Golden, Brooks Whaley, Skyler Forge, Dawson Zenger and Braedon LaRocque, among others.
To an extent, that’s worked. Against Riley County, Killingsworth completed 19 of 33 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and one perilous interception in the fourth quarter. Whaley and Forge rushed for 50 yards apiece. Whaley even threw a touchdown pass on a trick play Sieben drew up.
It went something like this: Killingsworth signaled Whaley into motion, took the shotgun snap and handed it off to Whaley in the backfield. Then, Killingsworth took off on a wheel route around the left side, curling back into the end zone, where Whaley placed a perfect pass.
Touchdown. Rock Creek took a 27-21 lead with halftime approaching.
The play was a highlight, and Rock Creek may not run it regularly, but it provided a window into the mind of Sieben, the team’s de facto offensive coordinator.
“We threw the ball (33) times because of the things they presented that we thought we could take advantage of,” Sieben said. “I can’t speak on times in the past, but 19 of (33) for 219 yards passing — that’s a lot more than they’ve thrown for in the past.
“That’s not because I want to throw it (33) times or I don’t want to throw it at all. It’s just, ‘What’s the defense going to present us? What opportunities are they going to give us?’ Riley County did a good job of loading the box and trying to take the run away.”
On defense, run by coordinator Monti Spiller, Rock Creek runs a out of a base 3-4 scheme. The Mustangs rely heavily on what their opponent likes to do on offense. If it’s an Air Raid offense, they’re dropping back in coverage. If it’s run-heavy, they’re stacking the box.
That approach isn’t much different from that of many teams, but there’s a defensive philosophy Sieben likes to keep static.
“For us right now, it’s about being gap-sound, being assignment-sound,” Sieben said. “No matter what we do defensively, we’ve got to be gap sound, and we’ve got to be assignment-sound. Our guys have got to a better job of knowing what their keys are and getting their eyes on their keys.
“That’s the one thing that kind of got us in trouble last week. Riley did a good job of presenting us with some jet motion and getting our eyes elsewhere and getting our eyes off of our keys. That’s something we’ve got to be better at this week.”
If the Mustangs can do so, they’ll be in good position on Friday. St. Marys, Sieben said, runs an offense similar to Riley County’s.
So for Rock Creek, it’ll be about correcting its mistakes.
Probably wouldn’t hurt to avoid hesitating, either — just like Sieben.
“St. Marys is a flexbone team, and they’re going to show you a lot of motion,” Sieben said. “They’re going to try to get you out of your gap, out of place and out of position, and take advantage when you do.”