With July 4th behind us, school is just around the corner. This also signals hard-nosed varsity football will soon return to take this community by storm.
With summer preparation well underway, Sonoraville head coach Denver Pate fills us in on his 2019 squad, including 7-on-7s, team growth and an update on the quarterback battle.
On Wednesday and Thursday this week, Sonoraville will travel to Calhoun High School to participate in 7-on-7 football. This brand of football is an all-passing game with almost no contact.
“When you go to the Calhoun camp, you’ll see some Floyd County schools, some schools that you’ll play during the season,” Pate said. “You’ll get to eyeball those guys a little bit, and the kids will as well. The kids will sneak a peak over there to see what they’re up against.”
Next week, the Phoenix will make their way to Kennesaw State University’s campus for more 7-on-7s, then close at Northwest Whitfield High School with 11-on-11 football.
Pate specifically mentioned the Kennesaw State 7-on-7s because it exposes the Phoenix not only to Atlanta-area teams, but also to college coaches.
“I think the benefit of that is competing in front of college coaches,” Pate said. “The kids get to see a little bit more speed maybe on the perimeter. It gives our wideouts a chance to face some different coverages, and then for the quarterback, it works on his timing as well. You’ve got to make sure the ball is out on time.”
The Phoenix have been meeting for three days a week, mainly lifting weights in the weight room.
“We’ve seen a lot of gains in the weight room,” Pate said. “Tyler Capps has been really killing it in the weight room and all three of his lifts are through the roof. Just seeing them compete on the grass and in the weight room has probably been the biggest change I’ve seen.”
This season, Sonoraville has quite a number of players returning. Pate said teams that remain consistent have plenty of depth within their ranks, and that’s what the Phoenix are trying to develop all the way around.
“I feel like there’s positions up front where we are starting to build some depth,” Pate said. “(Consistent teams) have that (No.) 2 that’s really pushing that No. 1 to make sure he’s the best player that he can be.”
A position battle that is still raging on is that of the quarterback, between senior Blade Bryant and junior Brady Lackey.
“I think both of them have made strides,” Pate said. “Neither one of them has batted an eye and they’re pushing each other to be the best they can be.”
Pate said, at this moment, the No. 1 starter is still to be determined, but a selection is coming soon.
“They’re still at it. It’s not a (No.) 1 and (No.) 2. It’s more of a 1A and 1B,” Pate said. “We know as a staff we’ve got to … make that decision for the betterment of our team and the betterment of those guys because whoever your (No.) 1 is needs to start getting a little bit more reps as we move forward. We look in the next couple of weeks to make that decision.”
“You want to see how they do under pressure,” Pate said. “I want to see who can play with confidence. Obviously, we won’t know that until we get into the first game, but at the same time, I think the 11-on-11s allow you to get a little closer to game-like action.”
Pate said the most important part of the summer workouts is striving to get better every day.
“When you’re in high school athletics, doesn’t matter what sport, it’s not a summer vacation,” Pate said. “It’s time to get better at your craft. Staying hungry and perfecting your craft.”
Since Pate started coaching at Sonoraville, he said his biggest area of growth has been developing relationships with the kids.
“I feel like I have a better grasp of the kids as far as knowing them on a personal level, but also knowing what they want out of it as well,” Pate said. “Being on the same page with those guys as far as what we’re in this to accomplish.”
Through the remainder of the summer, Pate said he wants to see the group continue to improve, stay hungry and strengthen their team bonds.
“For us, we expect big things out of the season,” Pate said. “We have a lot of returning starters coming back. I think each coach has a positive outlook going into the season. We knew a long time ago this was going to be a big class for us. This is the class that we expect to do big things with and … build tradition here at Sonoraville.”
Sonoraville opens its 2019 campaign with a home preseason contest against the Gordon Central Warriors on Friday, August 16. The regular season kicks off two weeks later, when the Phoenix visit Model.