Spring arrives for Bulldogs
By Greg Sullivan
The words were already flying around at the Morgan County Bulldogs' first football practice as the spring season got underway Monday, "Mary Persons." "Mary Persons."
"If you can defend the option with assignments, you've already faced the most difficult scheme," said Bulldogs Head Coach Bill Malone following Monday's practice, alluding to his team’s first opponent this fall.
"Coach Jenkins and I have started getting them on it the very first day."
The newest incarnation of Bulldogs was wide-eyed and eager to go Monday. Broken down into groups by their positions as practice commenced, players were rotated through drill stations manned by the team's coaching staff.
Fundamentals were a big part of the drills Monday. Tackling technique, blocking and quarterback to running back exchanges were all worked on, as the coaching staff tried to set the tone for what their expectations are this year as the team gets set to make the jump up to Class AAA.
Newly-promoted Defensive Coordinator Clint Jenkins was one of the more animated figures on the practice field Monday. As the players, fully padded, made live contact with one another, Jenkins pushed players not to give up on their plays.
When a ball would occasionally pop loose in contact drills, Jenkins would yell for players to scramble ferociously for the fumble recovery.
"We've got to have those this year," Jenkins would say.
But Monday's practice went beyond just drills and technique. The team gathered mid-field midway-through and ran through some basic plays as backups and B-teamers were ushered to the sidelines to take a knee.
Within the two-hour practice session the big idea was getting the players to look all the way ahead to the tough gridiron season looming in front of them this fall and to have them focus and show the kind of intensity that would make one think the games were much closer on the horizon.
As much as could be expected at this point in the year, players seemed to more or less grasp the tasks they were charged with; the big and the small picture.
"The thing that sticks out in my mind is the attitude of the guys," Malone said. "Everyone was upbeat. For the first day it was as good as any I've seen."
With two hours of practice time behind them the Dogs will look to build on Monday’s practice as they continue through their first week of the spring season. The season will conclude on Friday, May 16 with a spring scrimmage game set to kick-off at 6 p.m.
Back to Mary Persons, the other Bulldogs, they were 7-4 last season, finishing second in Sub-Region 4A-AAA and qualifying for the state playoffs. So not only will the Dogs start off with a trip to a Class AAA school August 29, but they'll be visiting a perennial Class AAA power and a team of playoff-calibre.
The Dogs are hoping for more depth this season as they will compete against bigger schools in their new classification. The good news for the team is that 103 players came out for Monday's practices, including a large group of rising freshmen who stuck out like sore thumbs donning red jerseys amidst upperclassmen who all wore white.
The team has needs to fill on the quick-side of the offensive line, Malone said. They're also are looking to find players to fill in some of their linebacker spots.
The question mark right now is at running back, where coaches are looking for a go-to guy to be established.
"We need someone to carry the ball 10 to 15 times and make people miss," Malone said.
Spring practice, which began Monday afternoon, will run through next Thursday, May 15. Practice runs from 4 p.m. until 6:20 p.m. for all of those days, following school.
The spring season concludes with a Red v. White scrimmage game on May 16 with a tentative start time of 6 p.m.