The Callisburg Wildcats held their first week of fall football practice and head coach Gary Jack said not only was it a productive five days, he feels the team is lightyears ahead of where they were this time last year.

“These five days have been really good,” Jack said. “We’re a little bit younger as far as a classification or grade level but man, we have really worked hard. It’s been a good learning week. We could feasibly start five or six sophomores, so we’re going to be a little bit younger group. Hopefully in time, we might end up being better and learn how to win games late.”

One area Jack said the Wildcats have made significant progress in is the defensive side of the ball.

“Last year, we played really well, but our mistakes and turnovers hurt us in some games,” Jack said. “We’ve got a new defensive coordinator and we’re lightyears ahead of where we were on defense last year. We might have turned some games in our direction last year.”

Jack said the week of work has been not easy physically for the players by design, but he said one tweak he made to the practice schedule is already paying off.

“We put them through a pretty good week,” Jack said. “They maxed out two different days on their weights. We do stretching and abilities and then we do conditioning and we do our conditioning first. We don’t wait till the end of practice like in the old days. I grew up like that and started out coaching like that. One day we were kicking around and said let’s condition first. And the kids love it, because now it’s over. They don’t dread practice.”

The Wildcats will scrimmage Collinsville at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16.

Jack said he hopes the team can implement some of the fundamentals the coaching staff stressed during the first week.

“11 of them are in on a play whether it’s offense or defense,” Jack said. “There’s a big saying we say in this business and it’s do your job. Don’t worry about him or him, you do your job. If all 11 of you do it, then we fit it together. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say, but we say it here all the time. Do your job.”

Jack said the Wildcats will still lean on their running game this season, but he hopes the scrimmage against the Pirates will be an opportunity to work on their passing game. The goal is to run a few plays well instead of overload the team with too many plays to execute.

“We’ve got most of our run game in and our passing game is going to be a little slow because we didn’t pass the ball very much last year,” Jack said. “We’re going to have a lot more of a passing attack this year. When we need it, we’re still going to be a running team. I think that’s what we’re going to have to base off of. We’re kind of built for spreading it out a whole lot, but we are going to be able to have the ability to do that. So we’ve got to work on that.”

Patrick Hayslip can be reached at sports@gainesvilleregister.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip