Making the grade

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Under an early morning sun, SCHS head coach Glenn O’Neil looks on as the Beavers go through footwork drills as part of their “county fair” conditioning routine during the first football practice of the season on Monday.

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Under an early morning sun, SCHS head coach Glenn O’Neil looks on as the Beavers go through footwork drills as part of their “county fair” conditioning routine during the first football practice of the season on Monday.

By Rod Haxton, editor

Young squad evident as practices begin

There is grading on the curve when Scott Community High School football coach Glenn O’Neil evaluates his team.

There’s no extra credit work you can do later.

You either make the grade or you don’t. And on the opening morning of two-a-day practices this week, the head coach wasn’t handing out any gold stars.

“You’re at a C- as far as effort and getting things accomplished,” said O’Neil during a short break following the first rotation of the grueling “county fair” conditioning drills. “At least that’s what I was seeing at my station.”

A few minutes later, as O’Neil was preparing his team for the next drill, he added, “This is what happens when three-quarters of your team is freshmen and sophomores.”

That’s no exaggeration.

Of the 44 players on the roster, 29 are freshmen or sophomores.

“The younger kids don’t know what to expect, so they end up pacing themselves to survive. Every practice since then they’ve picked it up a step,” says O’Neil. “The effort has been there since the first practice.”

Yes, the Beavers are bottom heavy with a lot of young players this season, but O’Neil isn’t allowing that as an excuse. And that doesn’t mean he sets his expectations any lower on the practice field or the playing field.

SCHS is still expected to be one of the top teams in Class 3A - a position which has come to be expected in the Beaver Nation.

O’Neil knows that with a young team - and the absence of depth - meeting those expectations won’t come easy.

That means little wasted time during the two-a-days without pads early in the week and when they put pads on for the first time on Thursday.

The 2-1/2 hour morning sessions have been more than just conditioning. O’Neil and his staff have also used this time to focus on special teams.

“We can get people familiar with their assignments so they are more prepared when we put the pads on. Hopefully, that means we can run through things at a little faster pace by the end of the week,” O’Neil says.

By using the mornings for conditioning and special teams, that allows the coaches to work on team elements in the afternoon.

That changes with the first day of pads on Thursday.

“Once we get the pads on we can work more on technique with our hitting. We can do more with small groups and individuals,” says O’Neil.

It’s what O’Neil calls a whole-part-whole teaching method.

The focus during the first part of the week is on the overall picture and once the pads are on the staff breaks teaching down into little phases and individual technique.

“Once we’re into the scrimmages we’re back into the whole part again,” says O’Neil.

The Beavers were in shoulder pads for the first time on Thursday morning. Naturally, there’s an added excitement level when the team can dress out in full pads.

“The older boys are anxious to get the pads on and begin hitting. The younger boys probably not quite so much,” says O’Neil. “Just like I do every year, I tell the freshmen we won’t be putting them into drills with the juniors and seniors unless they want to. We’ll put them into drills with other freshmen and sophomores and keep them away with the big boys for right now.”

O’Neil also points out to them that when they get into JV games - and without a “C” team schedule the freshmen will have an opportunity to play JV ball - they will be up against sophomores and the occasional junior.

“They’re going to have to get used to hitting, and being hit, by bigger boys. That’s part of life when there aren’t enough kids for three teams,” O’Neil says.

 

Saturday Scrimmage

The Beavers will be in their first full scrimmage on Saturday morning from 10:00-11:30 a.m.

One of the things that coaches will be watching is how well the boys retain what they’ve learned through summer camp and the first nine practices.

“We’ve been teaching schemes and working as much technique as we can without the pads. Now that the boys have pads things change. Some boys are really pumped up about hitting someone and others may be a little apprehensive,” says the head coach. “In those situations you can get so caught up in the moment you forget about your technique and fundamentals for a practice or two.

“What we’re looking for on Saturday morning is play memory. And we’ll be watching technique so that when we go back to our smaller teaching groups next week we know what to focus on.”

Of particular interest will be the line play as the Beavers “do some experimenting with the toss sweeps and handoff sweeps.” Because the offensive line is so inexperienced, the coaching staff will want to get an idea of where they are in terms of knowledge and ability to execute.

But that will be a season long process.

“The line will get a lot of scrutiny for the next eight to 10 weeks,” notes O’Neil. “They’re the key to the offense, no matter how good your skilled guys are or how average they are. The better our linemen can hold their own the more our skilled guys will be able to show what they can do.”

 

Depth Chart Set

It’s unlikely that the depth chart will see much change, if any, as a result of Saturday’s scrimmage.

In large part, that’s because the top spots are being held by the few seniors and juniors on the roster.

“There are a couple of positions where it’s possible boys could flip-flop (on the depth chart). But our seniors and juniors are way ahead of the sophomores,” O’Neil says. “There won’t be very many sophomores in position to jump up and grab an upperclassman’s job. The older guys have earned the right to start until a sophomore is clearly better.”

Creating depth, however, is essential.

“We do need to know who can step up and help in the event of an injury,” O’Neil emphasizes. “For as much as we expect of our runningbacks, we want some flexibility in rotating boys in and out of the lineup in order to give our starters an occasional break. We have that flexibility with our receivers, but we don’t have quite the depth we’d like with our backs.

“We have three or four guys who are way ahead of the next group of six to eight runningbacks.”

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