Kevin Goheen reports:
The name of the game doesn’t matter to Brian Castner when it comes to coaching. There’s a basic formula he’s learned that’s worked for him regardless of the playing surface.
“It’s about people and how you relate with them and how you’re going to make this thing work,” said Castner, the third-year football coach at Mason who for 11 years guided the Comets’ softball program as one of the region’s elite teams.
“The X’s and O’s will come but that’s really not a priority to me. It still isn’t. I’m 38 years old and I can honestly tell you I love my job for those reasons.”
The football Comets have improved each of Castner’s first two seasons, earning their first winning record in the Greater Miami Conference in 2010 and then going 7-4 with a Division I playoff berth last year. Despite losing 17 starters to graduation from last season Castner is confident the program will remain on the upward track as it fights to put itself in the GMC title race with favorites Colerain and Middletown.
“Last year was a year of true belief in what we do,” said Castner. “We won last year and we won with confidence by doing things the right way all of the time.”
Safeties Corey Quallen and Randy Anderson, linebacker Andrew Hauser, offensive lineman Elijah Nkansah and running back Darryl Johnson are the five returning starters. Last year the Comets won five of their final six regular-season games to earn the program’s first postseason berth since 2004. Mason joined the GMC in 2007 and won just eight games in its first three seasons in the league.
Castner had been an assistant under Gary Popovich at Mason before taking a position on Steve Specht’s staff at St. Xavier for five seasons. His first order of business at Mason was to make the players understand not only did he believe they could win in the GMC and beyond, but that they would.
“He came in yelling, motivating and saying we were going to win championships,” said Johnson, a first-team all-GMC selection last year. “He was positive and it carried over to us. I thought he was crazy but I now know he did everything for a reason.”
Johnson had 1,484 all-purpose yards last year, including rushing for more than 100 yards in seven games. Quallen was a second-team all-GMC pick while Hauser returns at middle linebacker for a defense that didn’t allow more than 21 points in a game following a 56-20 loss to Colerain in Week 4. Hauser was second on the team last year with 64 tackles.
The Comets lost at St. Xavier, the eventual regional champion, 17-6 in the first round of the playoffs last year but it was just a step in the overall development Castner is instituting.
“We have a family aspect now,” said Hauser. “It used to be that everyone was real individual and did things for themselves but he’s preached family with us.”