Archive for Thursday, August 28, 2008

Piggybacking 2007 season

Experienced team hopes to carry momentum over to 2008

Mark England, left, carries the ball while backfield mate Dylan Burford provides a block during practice Tuesday. The backs played significant minutes at running back on last year's 5-4 team, and figure to be a key part of a young, experienced team in 2008.

Mark England, left, carries the ball while backfield mate Dylan Burford provides a block during practice Tuesday. The backs played significant minutes at running back on last year's 5-4 team, and figure to be a key part of a young, experienced team in 2008.

August 28, 2008

The De Soto High School football coaching staff met Sunday night to discuss, among other things, the team's depth chart.

Coach Brad Scott said during his nine seasons at the helm for the Wildcats, the task could take as little as 10 minutes to complete. This past Sunday, though, it took the staff three hours.

"We've never had this kind of depth before - ever," Scott said. "We've got some kids that will be on the sidelines that would have been two-year starters for us two, even three and four years ago.

"And those kids give us such depth, not only because they can come in and spell somebody, but every day in practice they are pushing that guy ahead of them to keep his job and be better and that competition is just making us better as a group."

On the heels of a 5-4 season, the competition and depth is welcomed. As the Wildcats prepare to tackle a schedule that boasts tougher opponents in the early part of the season than in previous years, that competition coupled with the work put in in the offseason could make for a playoff run come November.

That offseason work began with a team camp at Pittsburg State University that afforded the Wildcats the chance to get full-pad repetitions against other high school teams. Then De Soto hosted a 7-on-7 passing league where skill position players got more snaps.

"We haven't had to spend a lot of time teaching anything, having to spend a lot of time correcting assignment-type errors and assignment-type responsibilities," Scott said. "I think the kids retained a lot from summer.

"Our kids have gotten to a point where we've been running this stuff so much it's gotten to the point where it's become second nature so we can spend a lot of time working on fundamental football - getting our pad level low, wrapping up when we tackle, all of those basic skills that you just have to master to be a good football team."

Once on the game field, many football minds agree that it all starts up front, on the line. Senior Mike Sprowl, a guard, returns and should anchor a very experienced offensive line. Next to him chould be Jake Radell, another senior who has started alongside Sprowl for the last two years.

Lyle Logan, on the other side of the line at left guard, returns as the incumbent from a year ago. Junior Daniel Davis was the top sub on the offensive line last year and may nail down the left tackle position.

At the skill positions, Jamel Townsend returns after starting his junior year at wide receiver opposite Josh Fisher, who has started for two straight years. Running back Mark England has been a three-year starter, while fellow back Dylan Burford has started for two.

"We've got a lot of experience, a lot of Fridays under the lights playing, a lot of snaps," Scott said. "We just feel like we've got a lot of things in place that we could, if everything falls into place, we feel like we should compete with anybody we play."

One position where it is less certain who will receive the bulk of the snaps is at quarterback, where Scott said he had an idea of what the team would do but was reluctant to name one person who would man the position.

"We feel like we've got a couple three kids that can come in and do some things in some situations, and so we don't feel like it's one of those, 'This is our guy and he's going to be out there the entire game," Scott said. "We feel like we have a couple of options there."

On the defensive side of things, Townsend, a senior, said the linebacking corps is the strength.

"Our linebackers are good this year, they're pretty physical, pretty solid," he said. "Outside we have Logan Clark and Clinton Davis, and then Nick Billings and Josh Fisher on the inside. So we've got a lot coming back."

Of those four, only Billings didn't start a year ago.

"Everybody has gotten bigger and stronger, lifting in the offseason," Townsend said.

England was as impressed with the improvement in attitude as the physical improvements this team has made so far.

"We're all having fun this year," he said. "Even the underclassmen, everybody is making everybody else better, starting with the seniors, the team leaders."

That strength and attitude improvement will be put to the test immediately, as De Soto begins the 2008 season with a 7 p.m., Sept. 5 home game against Gardner Edgerton, a team that many predict will contend for the 5A state title.

"They've got a lot of kids coming back, and Coach (Marvin) Diener is one of the best coaches in the history of the state. He just sprinkles his magical state championship dust on everybody and makes them better," Scott said. "They've got a nice thing going on over there and we're just a little school from up the street trying to compete with the big boys, so we're going to go out and see where we

match up."

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