Kicking off the action
The Pilot Point Bearcats, Aubrey Chaparrals and Tioga Bulldogs will complete their first full week of padded practice Friday. The next step in preparing for the season is seeing how each team’s playbook works against other teams when scrimmages begin this weekend.
Meanwhile, the Braswell Bengals finished their first week of fall practice in T-shirts and shorts as they gear up for a scrimmage on Aug. 25 against Grapevine Faith.
David sets high expectations
Danny David got a chance to watch his team in full pads for the first time since he became coach. He said last Friday’s practice lacked physicality.
“It wasn’t as physical as I’d like, but that’s to be expected considering the change in system,” David said.
“Our linemen are switching from a zone concept to a smash-mouth style of play, so it’s understandable that the first day was a learning experience,” he said.
David said the reason the linemen weren’t physical is because they were overthinking.
“Anytime you have to think about something before you do it, your reaction time is slower, so the linemen had to get used to our style of blocking,” David said.
Saturday’s morning practice was a lot better, he said.
“On Saturday, they were more familiar with the drills and played faster,” David said. “Football is a game of reaction, so when you overthink things, it slows down your reaction time.”
David is going to focus on taking the “ifs” out of his players’ minds.
“We want them to react and not do so much thinking,” David said. “Football is a simple game. If you block and tackle better than the other team, you’re probably going to win.”
For that to occur, David has certain expectations for his players before they enter the white lines on Friday nights.
Linebackers will be expected to play with desire, David said.
“You don’t have to be the best athlete – you just have to have a desire to go make plays,” he said.
Sophomore Connor Lynch is currently penciled in as the starting middle linebacker. Seniors Roy Brown and David Colmonero are the two outside linebackers. “I want athletic linebackers that can cover in space, and run sideline to sideline,” David said.
As far as defensive linemen go, 5’4” Diego “Chihuahua” Martinez is a player David will use because of his heart.
“Diego’s as quick as a cat,” David said. “He’s got an undeniable motor. He looks undersized, but I bet you he’ll make plays.”
Seniors Raymond Lynch, Tony Puga, Cody Binyon and Ryan Williams will anchor the defensive line.
David wants sophomore Jacob Pitts and senior Ty Hellman to play the cornerback position with physicality and discipline.
Sophomore receivers Javin “Bam” Bruce, Logan Whisenant, Bryson Griffin and senior Regan Gochis are expected to run crisp routes and gain separation from defensive backs, but most importantly, they are expected to block.
“Receivers can’t worry about catching 100 balls, they’re going to be asked to block,” David said. “If we break the first level and they do their job and block, we could go all the way.”
David said Friday’s scrimmage against Gainesville is a “glorified practice” where he wants to see his team get better.
“It’s all about fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals,” David said.
Aubrey seniors making mark
Aubrey head coach Keith Ivy said he had to pull the reigns back on some of his players because they were playing too physical during practice. “We’re more physical than any group we’ve had,” Ivy said. “We’ve got guys that are delivering blows and getting after it.”
Ivy used this week of practice to give the backup players substantial reps. “We focused more on our twos and threes and made sure those guys are ready to go Friday,” Ivy said. “Everybody’s going to play Friday, so we want to make sure they know what to do when they come in.”
Aubrey scrimmages Grapevine Faith at Chaparral Stadium at 8 p.m. Friday.
“They’re awfully good,” Ivy said. “They had three linemen that went on to play Division I football from last year’s team.”
Ivy will select starters based on the scrimmages against Grapevine Faith and Howe. “I think we’ll have a good idea of who our guys are going to be after Friday’s scrimmage,” Ivy said. “Brendan Milacek has had a good camp so far at middle linebacker.
“We’ve got a close competition at the two starting guard positions between Kye Ranton, Bryson Britten and Kaleb Wiseman,” Ivy said. “Those three have been extremely physical; they’ve exceeded my expectations.”
Ivy believes that this is also the most intelligent group of players he’s had, considering this is the first senior class that’s been through his system all four years.
“They understand our scheme and a lot of them are coaches on the field,” Ivy said. “We’ve got a couple of seniors that are ranked in the top 10 of their class. “They don’t miss assignments; they know when to do it and how to do it,” he said.
Ivy said the team chemistry has been great, and there’s a “family” atmosphere.
“Kids are having a blast out here,” he said. “When it’s time to work, they work, but they also cut up out here and have fun.”
Second year, one step closer
As Braswell heads into its second year as a football program, head coach Cody Moore believes his team looks a lot better with a year under its belt.
“I think we’re a lot closer to handling the demands of 5A football from a physical standpoint,” Moore said. “We’re a little behind on the offensive and defensive line, but I don’t think we’ll be as behind physically as we were a year ago.”
Moore said his was impressed by his team’s retention of the playbook.
“We’re learning how to practice with great tempo,” Moore said. “We’ve been able to hit the ground running.” Braswell practiced for six weeks in full pads during spring football this April, so the Bengals are fine tuning what they learned over the spring before the season begins. Starting senior running back Ki’andre Jackson was a bright spot in an 0-10 season, scoring the program’s first touchdown and leading the team in rushing yards and touchdowns. “Ki’andre has worked harder than he has in his life over last six or seven months,” Moore said. “It’s a tribute to his dedication to the program.
I expect big things from him. What we’ve got to do as coaches is provide him with blocking upfront.” There’s an open competition at quarterback between sophomore Grayson Thompson and junior Palmer Campbell that will be decided after Braswell’s scrimmage against Grapevine Faith.
“It was a whirlwind last year, so going into this year our quarterbacks along with the rest of our players have a better grasp of how to study film, and how to execute what is called,” Moore said. “I think Palmer has made progress from last year, and Grayson had a good year with the freshman team. “We can do as much or as little as they can handle; at this point, they know what’s going on so we can elaborate, and open it up a little bit,” he said.
Senior receiver Jaeden Johnson is expected to have a big year, Moore said. “A year of offseason and track has him looking great,” he said. “He’s worked his tail off and I look for him to play well this year.”
Senior Christian Battle switched from safety to receiver midway through last season; with a full offseason under his belt, Moore is excited to see how Battle performs.
Defensive back Caleb Richardson, another senior, is a player to watch as well, he said. Moore isn’t very high on scrimmages in general, so he’s considering doing without them going forward. “I just think it takes time away from our week one opponent,” Moore said.
When Braswell heads to Grapevine Faith next week, Moore wants to see if his team “has made the strides we think we’ve made.” Health a priority for Bulldogs Tioga coach Cody Patton wants one thing to come out of the team scrimmage against Weatherford Christian this Saturday – a blank injury report.
Patton said that in six-man football, one injury can be the difference in missing the playoffs or making the state title game, so he’s worked on strengthening his players bodies for the upcoming workload this season.
Bulldog players have participated in morning and afternoon workouts all summer to bulk up, and hopefully avoid major injuries. The focus going into the scrimmage to find players who want to “hit players in the mouth” and aren’t afraid to mix it up.