Whistles were sounding, pads were popping, routes were being run, throws were being made and coaches were giving instruction (sometimes loudly) at the two local Gordon County high schools this week as spring practice opened for Gordon Central and Sonoraville.
Both teams were trying to get a head start on the 2013 season with their first organized activities as a team. Each team went into the start of drills with plans in place and goals in mind for what they wanted to accomplish.
Here’s a little insight into each teams’ spring practice so far:
The Warriors opened up a new era when they got together on Monday for the first day of spring practice as new head coach David Humphreys had his team together for the first time since he took over the job in March. Humphreys replaced Chad Fisher, who left to take the head job at LaFayette back in January after six seasons at the helm for the Warriors.
While the Warriors will be learning a new system under Humphreys, the coaching veteran said learning the new schemes isn’t the No. 1 goal this spring.
“With everything being new, you want the guys to get comfortable with me, and we want to get comfortable with them and what they can do,” said Humphreys. “That’s the main goal for us. The coaching side of me wants to scheme and try to implement everything, but the other side wants to take it slow and build a solid foundation.”
The Warriors head into the spring coming off two straight playoff appearances so Humphreys, who served as the special teams coordinator under Fisher last season, will try to keep that momentum going. He will have a lot of impact players to replace from last year’s team, however, as several key guys, including quarterback MJ Reynolds, receiver/defensive back Tyshaun Clemmons, defensive lineman/tight end DJ Prather and defensive tackle LaRons Winston, among others, will all graduate from Gordon Central in a few weeks.
Humphreys said identifying new key guys and leaders will be another big focus during the spring.
“It would be great if (by the end of spring), we could identify our main skill guys,” said Humphreys. “We want to not necessarily know starters but to have a good idea of which quarterbacks, running backs and receivers are going to be our main guys. We have a pretty good idea about the defense and offensive line, but there are a lot of question marks that need to be addressed.”
A big part of the transition will be going back to a more traditional style offense, which Humphreys and the Warriors will shift to after running the shotgun spread under Fisher.
“People take it for granted, but getting back under center and getting comfortable taking snaps that way is a big emphasis for us,” said Humphreys. “We want to get enough reps to where it becomes second nature. We also want the guys to learn the verbage for the offense and how things are going to be called differently.”
The Warriors will wrap up spring practice next Friday (May 17) with their Blue and White Spring Game at 5 p.m. Admission for the game will be one new white athletic towel per person. Humphreys said the towels will help cut into the costs that the football team is responsible for.
As far as the game itself, Humphreys said he has a few goals in mind.
“The first thing is to have fun with it,” said Humphreys. “The second is to give everyone a chance to compete against each other. We’ll probably go for 40-45 plays in some form of a scrimmage, and that should be enough to give us some information about our team.”
The Phoenix started spring practice on Monday with hopes of trying to turn the page from a 2012 season in which they went 1-9, including a winless stretch inside Region 5-AAA.
Sonoraville coach Roger Gentry said that getting some positive momentum going after a season in which nothing seemed to go the Phoenix’s way is of the utmost importance.
“It’s very important for us,” said Gentry. “We’ve got to get the kids to believe they can compete. It’s important for them to believe in what we’re doing. That’s what the next week and a half is about.”
Sonoraville is also looking to fill several open spots that were left from graduating seniors. They must replace from last season their starting quarterback Tyler Harris, their top running back Jackson Murray, their top receiver Chris Baker and their four-year starting kicker Matt Edgar, just to name a few.
Gentry said identifying key players and creating depth was a goal during the first few days of practice.
“We’ve got some good numbers, and we’re just trying to go slow with them,” said Gentry. “We’ve got to fill some important positions. It’s gone real well so far, and the kids have responded well.”
After a season in 2012 in which the Phoenix struggled on both sides of the ball, Gentry said his team is looking to take another step toward being more consistent in all aspects.
“We put in a new offense last spring so the kids should be more familiar with it,” said Gentry. “We’ve just got to start playing full speed. Defensively, we need to get them running to the ball more. Those are the main things we need to improve on.”
The Phoenix will wrap up spring drills on Friday (May 17) at 5:30 p.m. with their annual spring game. Gentry said the big part of the game will be trying to settle on the main guys that will play offense and defense and a few that can go both ways.
“We want to get six or seven guys that just play on one side, but we want to find three or four that can play both ways,” said Gentry. “We’re going to play it like a real game so the coaches and players can get used to substitutions and timing.
“I think after this next week and a half that these kids will be excited about going out and scrimmaging and showing what we’ve been working on.”