PALESTINE – The final week of dress rehearsal is now behind Anderson county football teams. Next, the opening act. As teachers get acclimated to their new class of students, high school football coaches sit in their office game-planning for their new crop of talents.
Anticipation for the upcoming 2019 season still fills fans with excitement and wonder. This past week moved teams a step closer to the opening night of Friday night football. Before you shift your focus towards your teams' next opponent, here are a few notes from this week's final scrimmages.
Palestine v. Athens
Head Coach Lance Angel wanted to employ a run-oriented offense. Against Athens, several Wildcat running backs personified how Coach Angel wants his team to play. Fast. Quinton Cook, Jerimiah Davis and Keshawn Nonette all set the tone early with physical and patient runs. Cook, got the sidelines going with an outside run to the left that ended with him bulldozing over an Athens defender.
The defense didn't lack in production either as Athens offense struggled to get much going early in the scrimmage. Several of their plays were blown up for losses as Wildcat defenders constantly spent time in their backfield. Coach Angel left the scrimmage “impressed with the effort on both sides of the ball.”
If you've followed the coverage of the Wildcats recently you would be accustomed to hearing about “getting towards 10,000 reps.” It continues to be a point of emphasis for Coach Angel and his coaching staff. They harp on execution becoming natural. Though Coach Angel says the team is still on the path towards that number, the execution they showed Thursday left room for thought that they may be closer to that number then one may imagine.
Palestine made it through both scrimmages healthy. Their next game will be Friday against Waco Connally in Palestine.
Westwood at Carlisle
Westwood's first scrimmage gave Head Coach Richard Bishop “a different vibe” entering his second year with the Panthers. The team continued to build on top of that this week against Carlisle. Physical play from the offensive line set an infectious tone for Westwood against a Carlisle team who went 12-1 in 2018.
Westwood's two scrimmages showed this coaching staff the affect a change of culture can have on a group of athletes. Coach Bishop's objective was to establish a “college atmosphere” around the Westwood athletic department. From nutrition, weight programs and treatment/recover, a precedent has been set under Coach Bishop. And, so far, it seems to be paying off.
“They didn't understand the purpose behind the things we were asking them to do,” Bishop said. “We still have a long way to go, but we're excited about the progress.”
The first group that warranted praise from Coach Bishop was the offensive line. Donovan Barrett, Matthew Gomez, Jaden Crutcher, JT Herndon and Keenan Shaw will serve as the starting five for the Panthers. That group opened up several running lanes Thursday, including a couple that sprung for 60-yard touchdown runs.
Defensively, JaTavion Wilson, Cory Elton and KaDonte Watkins were all active around the ball against Carlisle. Both sides of the ball flashed potential. However, tackling and block shedding will continue to be an emphasis in practice. Also, though their defensive stars can use their quickness to navigate through plays, Coach Bishop hopes to see his team balance that with high discipline.
The Panthers will enjoy the thrill of game week prep and they will continue their regular two-a-day practice schedule. An early morning practice, coupled with an afternoon film session is how Westwood will spend their week preparing for their opening game at Alto.
Elkhart at Arp
Compete and display a hard work ethic is two things every coach hopes to get from his team. So far, Head Coach Jason Fiacco is confident his team will give him that when it time to go to work.
“Anytime they struggled they continued to fight,” Fiacco said.
Offensive linemen Landon Estes and Jacob Nugent along with Linebacker David McMorris, are a few names who didn't enter this year with varsity experience. Their hard work has earned them the opportunity to secure spots on varsity in 2019.
Though they aren't “fully seasoned” after these two scrimmages, these dress rehearsals have been imperative to their growth as players and a sample of what the next level is like.
They join a group of athletes who want to be known as hard-nosed football players. And, in Coach Fiacco's eyes, has earned that label through these two scrimmages.
Elkhart will use their hard-nosed approach to prepare for their opening home game against Centerville next Friday.