April 30, 2009
The Columbus High School assistant football coaches already are in midseason form.
The CHS players are doing their part to join them.
Judging from the players'' performance Friday in an intrasquad scrimmage, the Falcons have made the most of their offseason workouts and are attacking spring football with enthusiasm.
That energy was on display after a goal-line play in the first hour of Friday''s scrimmage. With the ball on or inside the 1-yard line, the offense appeared to win the battle at the line of scrimmage to score a touchdown.
Or did it?
Defensive coordinator Tony Stanford didn''t think so, and he stalked toward the pileup of bodies to state his case.
Offensive coordinator Grady McCluskey walked in from the right side saying his unit had scored, and he punctuated his point of view by raising his arms above his head to signify touchdown.
Columbus head coach Bubba Davis, who was in the middle of the action, enjoyed the scene and how the players put themselves in position to squabble about a 1-yard touchdown in April.
"The coaches right now are real excited about the spring," Davis said. "The kids have gotten a lot stronger and are trying to do more of what we want them to do. They are responding real well to what we are teaching them."
Columbus High, like many area public schools, is taking a week off from spring football so its students can take state subject area tests.
The Falcons worked in pads last week and plan to get back to the practice field Monday. They are working toward a May 16 date at Millsaps College where they will face Yazoo City at 11:45 a.m.
Some of the area''s other schools, including Heritage Academy and Oak Hill Academy, will begin spring practice May 4.
Others, like Starkville Academy, which won''t have a spring game, already have unofficially started spring practice.
For programs like East Webster, Hamilton, and New Hope, whose baseball teams are still alive in the state playoffs, their football teams might not be at full strength, but the coaches are making do with what they have.
Davis, whose team is coming off a 1-10 season, said another key to the Falcons'' hard-hitting start in the spring is everyone, from coaches to players, is having fun and working hard. He said that mind-set started in the offseason, particularly in the weight room, where more than 40 players increased their lifts by 80 pounds or more since January.
"When we got here our thing was the weight room, and that''s where they learn how to win," said Davis, who has more than 100 players out for spring practice. "When you go in the weight room and really work hard you learn a lot of things about yourself. They have to start competing in there and they have carried it to the field."
Davis admitted he thought he and his coaches would have encountered more players with that attitude last year when they took over the program.
Unfortunately, Davis and his coaches spent much of their first season teaching players what they needed to do and how hard they needed to work in their system to be successful. He hopes the Falcons can begin to reap some of those benefits in the fall, which is why the spring season is key to continue the building -- and hitting -- process.
"Our ninth-grade group this past year had a lot of success, and a lot of them are very confident about their ability to play," Davis said. "I think that inspired some of the older kids to say I am not going to fool around and I am not going to let one of these up-and-coming 10th-graders take my spot. They have worked harder in the weight room and are a lot more focused on what we''re trying to teach them. The accumulation of all of that has made everybody better."
New Hope High School football coach Michael Bradley has more than 60 players participating in workouts that started this week.
The Trojans will play host to five-team "jamboree" that starts at 4:30 p.m. May 15. Starkville will play Amory, Starkville will face Pontotoc, and Amory will take on Pontotoc in three quarters before New Hope will meet Shannon in a varsity game.
Tickets for the event will be $5.
New Hope advanced to the third round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A North Half state playoffs last season, losing to eventual state champion Noxubee County.
The Trojans lost several key performers from that team, including do-it-all standout Josh Ferguson and offensive linemen Jonathan Guerry and Tamicdrius Davis. Guerry will play at Southern Miss, while Ferguson and Davis will play at East Mississippi Community College in the fall.
Bradley said those holes will be just three the Trojans, who are missing four or five players still with the school''s baseball program, will have to fill if they want to build on their 2008 finish.
"We''re going to coach the kids that are out there and wish the ones who are still in other sports the very best," Bradley said. "Winning is a contagious thing. The fact that some of our football players are still playing baseball is a good thing. I support them 100 percent."
Johnny Beamon is one of those players. Bradley said Beamon is one of several players who has the potential to step into the role of a multi-dimensional performer Ferguson held last season.
Who will fill that position remains to be seen, but Bradley said he and his assistant coaches are going to do their best to make sure the Trojans take full advantage of the spring season and are ready when they get started for good in the fall.
"This is the fourth spring we have had together and our guys have the playbook down, so to speak," Bradley said. "We stay pretty bland in the spring. I don''t think many championships have been won on spring games. The important things to do in the spring is to coach repetition, to coach the little things, and to try to play as many kids as you can to find out who can play when they are in a game situation. You find out who is going to be able to perform when the lights come on."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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