The Pepperell Dragons want to be known as a hard-working, lunch pail kind of team according to head coach Zach Mendence, and that is the main focus he is stressing to his team this season and the same one they have had over the last several seasons.
The Dragons enter 2021-22 looking to be tougher and scrappier than the team that stands across from them each night they play because Mendence said he knows that is what is going to make the difference against tough opponents that may have more size and skill than his team. Over his first five seasons at the helm at Pepperell, his team has embraced that strategy, and he is excited about this year’s team doing the same.
Even though they lost seven seniors to graduation following last season, the Dragons still have several players returning with good experience as Mendence employs a gameplan that allows a lot of players to contribute with mass substitutions to create depth and keep fresh players on the court throughout the game.
Below you will find all the info you need to know in order to get ready for the quickly-approaching season, which begins with a non-region contest on the road against Mt. Zion on Tuesday, including a quick snapshot of the Dragons heading into the 2021-22 campaign and an interview with the coach, Mendence.
Head Coach: Zach Mendence (sixth season)
Last year’s record: 8-15
Starters lost from last season: 7
Key players: Gage Owens (G, Jr.), Brenton McGinnis (F, Sr.), DJ Rogers (G, Jr.)
RN-T: How has preseason practice gone so far and what have been the biggest things your team has focused on to get ready for the season?
MENDENCE: We had 11 kids practice for three weeks, and five of those were freshmen and two were sophomores. So we were just trying to get them in and more familiar with what we do. We finally got all the football kids back this week, and now we have a full week to get those guys in and really have the whole team practice together. I feel like we have put in some good work in that short time.
RN-T: What do you feel is an area or areas of strength for your team going into the 2021-22 season and what is an area you feel your team needs to improve the most?
MENDENCE: When we match up with people, we’re probably not going to be the bigger, more athletic team most of the time. I’ve told them that defense, rebounding, taking charges, causing more turnovers that we’re giving…things like that is what is going to make the difference for us. We have to do the little things to have success. We have to be more mentally than our opponents.
RN-T: What are the keys for this year’s team to reach its full potential or, in other words, what are the things your team will hang their hat on in order to have success this season?
MENDENCE: We’re just going to have to be tougher than who we play. Our practices are very taxing. Every day we talk to them about what they need to do to be able to beat teams that probably have more size and skill than we have. We show our guys that it’s not always about how many points they score. We don’t have a bunch of big stat guys. We want to have guys that are tough and play hard game in and game out, and the rest of the stuff will take care of itself. We also do a lot of gameplanning and film work to be as ready for our opponents as possible.
RN-T: What are your overall goals and/or expectations for what your team can accomplish this season?
MENDENCE: We always meet with our seniors and write down the things we want to accomplish as a team. The biggest thing we want to do is put ourselves in position to make moves at the region tournament. Then we look at what we need to do once we’re there to make the state tournament. We want to play our best ball at the end of January and February.