PALESTINE – The first week of scrimmages are in the book for Anderson County teams. It signified the start of high school football for the viewing public and concluded the final week without gridiron action for a few months.
Seven area teams participated held scrimmages on Friday, which included Palestine v. Salado, Westwood at Cayuga and Elkhart v. Mildred. With the start of the football season looming close, coaches were both satisfied and excited about what they saw out of their teams.
Palestine Wildcats: Shooting towards 10,000 reps
“It takes 10,000 reps to get good at something.” That is the message emphasized from Head Coach Lance Angel around the Wildcat locker room. Friday put them a little closer to that target number, but they're “not quite at 10,000 yet.”
“Our big deal was to find out who can block, tackles and be physical,” Angel said. “Who can handle and execute their assignments.”
Team conditioning was noted last Friday and will continue to be a point of emphasis moving forward, along with mastering the fundamentals of important aspects of their scheme. Running Back Jerimiah Davis spent time on both sides of the ball against Saledo. Davis, who has been one of the team's standouts on offense, will spend time at Linebacker this season.
Coach Angel saw a “crisp scrimmage” from Davis after not spending extensive time on defense since his freshmen year on junior varsity.
Quinton Cook, a prominent leader on the defensive side of the ball at Linebacker, will inherit a larger role on the offensive side of the ball this season. He will split time with Davis as the duo carries much of the load in Palestine's run-oriented offense.
Coach Angel also saw some solid action out of a few unnamed sophomores during the scrimmage.
“We want to play fast and not think,” Angel said. “Our goal when we line up on a Friday night is to not think. We want to turn them loose and play. The more reps we can get and execute the better we will feel about that.”
Palestine walked away from the scrimmage in good health and will prepare to scrimmage Athens on Thursday at Wildcat Stadium. Freshman and junior varsity will take place at 6:00 p.m. Varsity will follow at 7:15 p.m.
Westwood Panthers: Year 2 gives a different vibe
Sometimes you get tired of beating up on each other and need to see another color jersey. It was the mindset for the Westwood Panthers entering the first scrimmage and they were thrilled to see “live bullets.”
“Year two has a different vibe to it,” Head Coach Richard Bishop said. “They understand our terminology, our language and verbiage. They don't look at us like we're speaking German.”
Now that the team is more comfortable in the scheme it allows the Panthers to “take the next step.” De'Anthony Thomas, who will see action at running back, has the talent to run the ball. What showed during the scrimmage was his ability to protect and be sound in blitz pickup, which is a vital part of the Panther's offense. He also will spend time at inside linebacker this year.
Thomas will be a part of a running back rotation that will feature Tremelle Rhodes, who was held out last week. Rhodes will see some time in their next scrimmage against Carlisle this Thursday.
Coach Bishop also noted the improved confidence quarterback Dalton Brooks appeared to show in their scrimmage. He was able to stand in the pocket and deliver timely throws to a few of the Panthers receivers on the evening. On the receiving end of those throws was Senior Aeneas Page, who scored on a couple of 70-yard plus catches.
Westwood left the scrimmage healthy and will be back on the gridiron Thursday for their final scrimmage against Carlisle.
Elkhart Elks: Selflessness sparks excitement in coaches
Elkhart's scrimmage against Mildred Friday showed many of the things that needed to be corrected at the start of camp has been vastly improved upon. New coaching staff additions Mitchell Stephens, offensive coordinator, and Sam Blackmon, wide receivers coach, impressed in their Elkhart debuts.
“I'm fired up about the coaches,” Fiacco said. “They're vocal and constantly getting after it.”
Elkhart's workhorse Cade Starr saw plenty of action on both sides of the ball. He was lively on the offensive side of the ball and constantly found himself near the ball carrier on defense.
“Starr has matured a lot since last year,” Fiacco said. “He's handling the offense and managing what we're doing. He is the leader of the offense.”
His progression throughout this season won't be a difficult one to keep track of. He has his name in the offense, defense and special teams this year. Perhaps the most exciting plays on the night came from running back R.J. Moore. Early in the scrimmage, he showed explosive power by lowering his head and trucking through a Mildred defender. A few plays later, he found himself bulldozing across the goal line for the first score of the game.
Fiacco noted the junior's ability and how he did not disappoint.
The offensive plays didn't stop there as sophomore Messiah Birdow used his 6'4 frame to hawk a ball out of the air over a shorter Mildred cornerback later in the scrimmage. Birdow enters his second year after seeing time on varsity as a freshman. After a year of varsity experience, Coach Fiacco sees him “starting to come out of his shell and fulfilling the potential he has.”
A huge noteworthy item for Coach Fiacco was the amount of “selfless plays” his team made during the scrimmage. “The culture of the team is something I'm proud of.” He spoke on how that sense of selflessness can be difficult to implement early on. However, the team's perimeter blocking, along with defensive guys setting up teammates to make plays sparked further excitement for Coach Fiacco.
Elkhart will have a road scrimmage against Arp High School this Thursday.