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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
CORNING — It’s the middle of the summer, and there on the field were nearly 50 athletes, showing up for voluntary workouts, which Corning calls installation.

Last year the Hawks had a strong football season, winning a sectional title, and while the team lost 18 players to graduation, this summer shows there are plenty of people working hard to awry up this season.

“Each week we have had more kids who have been showing to install,” Corning coach Mike Johnston Jr. said.  “A lot of them are playing three sports, they are going to workouts, we are encouraging kids from all sports to come to our football weight room session in the morning. We’ve got all sorts of football, basketball, lacrosse, we’ve got coaches and players in there working to get bigger, stronger and faster.

“Each week we’ve gone from maybe 38 to 43 to 48 in our install period on Wednesday. Each week we’ve gotten a couple more kids. We still want kids to be able to spend family time during the summer, because a lot of them are playing three sports so if they are able to get away and relax and go to a beach we encourage that.”

Johnston Jr. knows all about athletes doing three sports a year, he coaches football in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball in the Spring. The coach spends a lot of July on sports before trying to get a little break before football season kicks off.

“I try and spend a majority of my time in July doing football, basketball, softball, whatever it may be, we are going” Johnston Jr. said. “I’m home around 9 o’clock every night, but I try and keep the weekends open for family and we’ll eventually int he middle of August go on a vacation and then we’ll be recharged and ready to go in the fall.”

The Hawks have a strong group of returning players in the backfield, and that will be one of the keys for the Hawks this coming season.

“Obviously our strength will be our backfield,” Johnston Jr. said. “We’ve got more experience there than in the other positions, but competition is awesome. The beauty of sports is the game doesn’t know an age. There may be some kids that are a little bit bigger and older, but we can be quicker and wiser and have high IQs. You just play to your strengths. This group of kids, they are coming every day and we are going to lineup and compete.”

One of the area’s where the Hawks will have some new faces is on the line, but Johnston Jr. knows he has kids working hard and they want to earn those spots in the lineup.

“We have some kids in the backfield that are pretty skilled,” Johnston Jr. said. “They’ve got speed and they are tough kids, we’ve got experience with those kids back there. The quicker we bring the people up front along, the majority of the 18 kids we lost, a lot of them were linemen and they were very good. WE have key players to replace, but we never use the word young. Every day we come to these installs, every day we go to the weight room. We have a lot of kids going to prospect camps so they are putting the time in. You win games in these months when nobody is looking. I’ve seen kids out there when we leave the weight room, they are out there on the turf running routes and pass patterns and working on agility drills. I”m proud of them, they are taking the initiative to do that.

“These are life lessons, kids are being competitive. You’ve got to earn, the key word is earn, you have to earn the right to get on the field, it’s not just given to you, it doesn’t matter who you are. I just think in athletics we have tried to encourage kids we coach don’t pigeon hole yourself of hey, I’m a freshman or a sophomore I’m supposed to play JV when I’m in 9th or 10th grade. No, you are going out and competing because the game doesn’t know how old you are. We’ve got some kids, I really like our coaching staff, I think we’ve got great experience. I think our people know exactly what we want to do. We tweak some things here and there, it may look the same to the naked eye, but we always make some changes from one year to the next to stay ahead of defenses.”

Everything kicks off for Corning at home on Sept. 10 when they host Newburgh in the opening game of the season.

“We play Neburgh at home, they were 10-2 last year and they suit up 40-50-60 guys, have 3,100 kids in their school,” Johnston Jr. said. “They are highly competitive, have skilled kids, and they have a great group of linemen coming back. They have a 6-8 wide receiver whose getting recruited but last time I saw Rutgers, West Virginia, University of Connecticut and some and they actually last year got beat in the state semis, I think, to Carmel, who ended up winning it all. They are good, we know that. We’ll be ready, we are preparing right now and we know they are good and we’ll have to be highly competitive.”

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