By DARIN ALLRED
Register Sports Editor
Football practices began Monday for Texas high schools and Cooke County teams were no exception.
At Gainesville High School, 50 sophomores, juniors and seniors came out for the first practice, although only 40 went through the morning workout. The other 10 had to get medical physicals before they were allowed to practice. In the afternoon, 25 freshmen went through their first workout as Leopards.
The Leopards, who were 2-8 in 2008, return just nine lettermen from that team, but do have several key starters back this year including quarterback Kielyn Lewis, running back Deshawn Franklin and receiver Harold Wills.
Head coach Ricky Lock seemed pleased with how his kids looked the first day.
“I thought it went well,” he said. “The kids were in better shape than they were a year ago so that's a good thing. We're a little thin at some places, but the kids were ready to go and were bouncing all over the field and we had a good practice.”
Coaches always worry about conditioning, since the more they have to condition the first few weeks of practice, the less time they have to work on schemes and strategy. But Lock says conditioning wasn’t a problem for most of his team.
“It's never what you really want, but the guys that we know that will have to get on the field and play on Friday nights, the majority of them are in pretty good condition,” he said. “They came in pretty good shape.”
As for what he wants to accomplish this first week of practice before putting on the pads Friday, the coach wants the rest of his team to get in shape and to work on continuity.
“Your four days in shorts are to help with your conditioning. That's what the state wants,” Lock said. “There is a whole lot of teaching and reteaching from the spring. We have to get people in the right place early on, get some continuity with our offensive and defensive lines and just getting your system in place is pretty important the first four or five days.”
In Class 2A, the Callisburg Wildcats had 72 players go through the first of two practices Monday. Callisburg head coach Jerry Bomar is one of the few coaches in the area that still use the traditional two-a-day format. The Wildcats are practicing from 8:30 to 10 a.m., and again from 6 to 8 p.m., each day this week. They will put on the pads Friday and will go through a two-hour practice from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Bomar noticed several positive things about his team’s first practice, especially some off-the-field things that he says are related to his team winning a playoff game last year for the first time in school history. Those things included everyone being on time and having all their paperwork done well in advance of Monday’s deadline.
All-Area receiver Bobby Dorman has been moved to quarterback for his senior season. Another new face in the backfield Monday was transfer Langston Jones, who was an All-State running back in Iowa last year. Jones rushed for over 1,300 yards as a junior for a state championship team. Jones was sharing time in the backfield Monday with Chris Apala among others.
At fellow Class 2A Valley View, second-year head coach Terry Felderhoff was happy with how things went the first day.
“I was very pleased with them today,” he said. “We’re changing up our defense and they seemed energized today. Offensively and defensively, they worked really hard. I don’t have any complaints.”
The Eagles had 43 players report for the first day, a number that is lower than the past. Felderhoff said they had fewer freshmen show up than they expected.
The coach also said that the fact he is in his second year at the school made Monday’s practice go smoother.
“Last year I’m sure they were wondering what it was going to be like since it was my first year,” he said. “They’ve had a year to get to know me and the way I do things.
The Eagles are practicing from 7 a.m. to noon every day for the next two weeks.
Cooke County’s Class A schools also got started Monday.
Era Hornets head coach J.D. Henderson welcomed 36 players to practice Monday which is just what he expected. He says it is 10 more players than he had last year for the first day.
Henderson said he was pleased with how his players looked on Monday, especially with their conditioning.
“This is two years in a row that the kids have come into practice in pretty good shape,” he said. “We didn’t have any struggling with the conditioning today, but we’re going to give them a pretty heavy conditioning day today, so I might be singing a different tune this afternoon.”
The Hornets return seven offensive and seven defensive starters from last year’s 7-3 team that narrowly missed the playoffs.
At Muenster, the Hornets are riding high after making the playoffs in head coach Allen Cross’ first year in 2008. Now that he is in his second season, Cross saw a difference Monday.
“I feel like we are so much further ahead this year than we were last year with the kids and the coaches,” he said.
Cross also noticed a difference in attitude, perhaps because of the way they finished the 2008 season and the expectations many have for his team this year.
“The kids came in with a little bit of confidence and are ready to put it all together,” he said.
Lindsay head coach Cody Bounds had 50 players for practice Monday, a number he says is up from last year.
“Things went well,” Bounds said of the first practice. “The kids worked hard and did a lot of conditioning.”
The Knights were 8-5 and reached the regional semifinals in 2008, but they will have to replace several key players from that team. Luckily for them, they have players like receiver/kicker Ross Jones, running back Ryan Haverkamp, linebacker Robert Arend and tight end Madison Parkhill back this year.
Private schools in Texas also started practicing on Monday, and at Sacred Heart in Muenster, head coach Dale Schilling had 30 players show up.
“That’s a pretty normal number and that’s pretty good for us,” Schilling said. “The kids were very enthusiastic. I think we’re going to have good senior leadership. For years they’ve had someone else to take care of them, but they responded really well the first day.”
The Tigers are working out from 7 to 11 a.m., each day this week and will continue with the morning workouts until Aug. 13 when Sacred Heart starts classes.
By DARIN ALLRED