High school football fans go eight months without much to watch.
Thankfully, Adairsville and Cass fans were treated to some spring football Friday evening to hold them over until the season begins in August.
The Tigers and Colonels each took part in a controlled intrasquad scrimmage in their stadiums, giving spectators a chance to see how each team is coming along.
Both teams displayed a physicality as the competition was intense in the game-like atmospheres.
Tigers pick up physicality
Adairsville graduated much of its defense from its 2015 state quarterfinal team.
despite the graduations, Head coach Eric Bishop said there are several players stepping up to fill the voids, and physicality and playing fast are some of the attributes that the coaching staff has been preaching in spring practices.
“It was good. I was pleased and impressed with a lot of things that we say [Friday],” Bishop said of the spring game. “First of all, with the older groups, we were being very physical. We’re playing pretty fast, something we’ve been talking to them about this whole spring practice. We have to play a little faster and a little more physical. It seemed to get better and better each and every day.”
Many of the Tiger faithful may have wanted to see how the defense would look after losing both defensive ends, the linebackers and the secondary unit from last year. On the first offensive possession of the spring game, linebacker Dakota Hughes answered some of those questions when he picked off a pass and returned it to the end zone for a touchdown. Several other players have been stepping up as well, according to Bishop.
“[Hughes] has had a really good spring. Bryce Burgess is another young man who’s had a great spring. Coming off of wrestling season, he’s really worked hard to get his weight back up and get his strength where he thought it should be at this point. He’s had a great spring for us both offensively and defensively,” Bishop said of defensive players stepping up. “Chad Lowery is another one. He’s really progressing at our safety position.”
With the losses of DeAndre Applin and Torrey Hale in back-to-back season, there has been a candidate that has emerged in spring ball to fill in the free safety void left from the last two college safeties.
“Mason Boswell, who will be a sophomore next year, had a really good spring on both sides of the ball, but primarily on defense,” Bishop said. “He’s really, really looked good and can kind of fill the shoes of DeAndre Applin or Torrey Hale on that defensive unit.”
All-state cornerback Marquel Lane also is gone, as is senior defensive ends Drake Green and Will Rose. A couple of young players have emerged at each position.
“Travon Branch has a had a good spring. He’s had a good spring at corner and slotback for us,” Bishop said. “Devin Isaac has been a kid who’s really come on in the last couple of practices. I’m thinking, if he can learn technique, he could be a really good defensive end for us.”
The Tigers also have a pair of returning starters at defensive tackle who have shown improvement.
“The two big guys in the middle, Jacob Potter and Rico Wills, they both had a great spring,” Bishop said. “They are two of the strongest kids on our team, playing inside D-line for us and doing a great job from a leadership standpoint as well.” Overall, Bishop is
“We really looked good at times on defense [Friday],” Bishop said. “There wasn’t a lot of touchdowns scored, but we were playing a lot of kids in a lot of different situations and positions. We’re just trying to experiment and get it all on film so that we can further evaluate where we’re at position by position. Hopefully, now we can focus on strength and conditioning over the summer and skill development.”
Offensively, Bishop said his team focuses on the run game more in spring practice and concentrates on the passing game over the summer.
“Kind of the way we structure things, in the spring is, offensively, we’re going to really focus on blocking and tackling,” Bishop said. “Offensively, we’re going to focus on the run game and be real run heavy in spring practice because it’s the only time you can really be physical and be padded up and working on those blocking skills for your run game. We’ll kind of transition now, while we’ll still focus on triple option and some of those things, we’ll be real pass heavy later in June and July until we can get guys back on Aug. 1. And then we’ll be back to a heavy emphasis on run game and triple option and that kind of stuff.”
Overall, Bishop was pleased with how his team is looking heading into the next phase of preparation for the 2016 season.
“We had max week in the weight room this week. We had some kids post some really good numbers. We’ve had a good year in the weight room. I’m happy with where we’re at after spring practice,” he said. “Like I told them [Friday], we obviously have a lot of work ahead of us and they know what’s expected and the direction we want to go. So it’ll just be a matter of putting our nose to the grindstone and getting it done in June and July.”
Colonels implementing new offense
Cass track stars Terry Berdin, Laizon West, Ray Varnum and Malik Grimes all competed at the Georgia Olympics this weekend.
With all that speed, running back Derrick Maxwell returning and with an athletic first-year starter at quarterback with Brett Gaddy taking over, the Colonels are changing their plan of attack on offense.
That process has begun in spring practice and the revamped offense was unveiled to the spectators at Doug Cochran Stadium Friday.
“We threw a lot at them, essentially, a entirely new offensive scheme,” head coach Bobby Hughes said of spring practice. “10 days is not a lot of time to do that. We’re a little bit more power sets, true zone read, triple option stuff. We have three backs that we feel really good about.”
Laizon West played in the spring game after competing in the 4x100 earlier in the day at the state meet. Terry Berdin is a breakout candidate this year, but did not participate in the spring game as he will run in the state finals of the 100-meter dash today in Jefferson.
Honorable mention all-region running back Derrick Maxwell also returns and brings some more power to the backfield and powered a carry into the end zone on a red zone carry to end the scrimmage.
“Hammer, he’s Mr. Steady,” Hughes said of Maxwell. “He’s a really good high school back. You’re not going to read a lot about him because he’s not the 6-foot, 190-pound guy. He’s 5-foot-6, but he plays like he’s 210 pounds.”
Gaddy also has impressed Hughes in spring ball.
“He had a really good spring,” Hughes said of his first-year starter at quarterback. “Things happened fast for him [Friday]. His dad [defensive coordinator Jamey Gaddy] threw a lot of different stuff at him from a defensive perspective. He had two bad reads, but out of 31 or 32 plays. He had two reads that he’ll adjust with.”
Another positive note from spring practices was the turnout. Hughes said there has been over 100 players in attendance over the course of spring ball.
“Our numbers are up, attitudes are great,’ he said. “There’s a bunch of [players who were impressive in spring]. We have a real young group. Rodney Richards is a sophomore. Eathan Mitchell [sophomore defensive end], Tripp Breeden [junior linebacker]. Colby Williams came in and played some wildcat quarterback [Friday]. He started for us at safety and cornerback last year.”
After the game, Hughes told the players the summer is when the real work starts.
“We’ll be back in the weight room,” he said of where the Colonels are headed now. “We’ll be out here working and we’ll be right back at it May 31.”