One theme is consistent for every high school football team entering two-a-days — coaches are certain about some things, and uncertain about a lot.
A player. A unit. A coaching staff. A tradition. A motivation.
Whatever it might be, it can make or break a football season for a team.
As two-a-days begin Monday for all of the Class 2A and 1A schools in the Golden Circle, let’s take a look at a certainty, and a concern for each coaching staff entering practices.
This is the first of a two-part series looking at the knowns and unknowns for Golden Circle area football teams. We’ll look at the unknowns on Tuesday.
Known: That offensive coordinator J.J. Guidry can count on senior quarterback Jayd Kirby, who accounted for 67 percent of the Lions’ offense last season is huge for Blooming Grove.
The Lions want to help Kirby more this season.
“Our offense will still run through Jayd, but we feel like we will have more weapons this year,” Kirby said. “Teams will not be able to focus only on our quarterback. We have some explosive skill players coming back and feel like we will be more versatile.”
Kirby understands, but would welcome passing for 1,402 yards and rushing for 943.
“I wish I could have it again,” Kirby said.
Known: Bulldogs coach Scott Hawkins can see that his players are over last year’s 0-10 season.
How does he know? He saw it the rest of the school year.
“I was real shocked at how the kids rebounded in basketball season,” Hawkins said. “Then in offseason football and baseball. They had a great offseason. They really worked hard. It really shouldn’t surprise me because all year long, every Saturday morning and every Monday afternoon they were ready to go.
“After last year, and what those kids have gone through in the past, they want to get back to where they were.”
Known: Frost has an experienced roster for the first time in years. It’s a great situation for new Polar Bears coach Eric Blenden.
Frost returns 20 of 21 players from last season.
“We have a little bit of maturity,” Blenden said. “Most of our guys have started for three years.”
The Polar Bears have veterans at key positions. Senior quarterback Jake Stroder threw for 446 passing yards. Senior tailback Danial Steels rushed for more than 1,000 yards despite injuries. Junior fullback Woody Williams is also reliable.
“We’re finally old,” Blenden said. “For the first first four years I’ve been here, we had more kids dropped off by their parents than were able to drive up here.”
Known: The Jaguars will run the ball like crazy with Bradley Walker, who almost went for 2,000 yards last season, plus Trey Henderson, Jordan Johnson and future standout Trey Knight (sophomore) waiting in the wings.
Hubbard will not rely solely on Walker, even though there will be a tempatation after his breakthrough 2011 season that saw him go for 1,917 yards as the Jaguars roared to the third round of the playoffs.
“We have a stable of runners,” Horn said. “And we have a lot of receivers coming back. The tight end coming back. We’re going to try and distribute the ball.”
Known: That quarterback Nate Betts has put last season’s fumbled snap late in the Bobcats’ playoff loss to Valley Mills behind him.
The sophomore showed that in being one Kerens’ clutch players during the Bobcats memorable run to the state basketball tournament.
Betts is the least of concerns for Kerens coach Russell Anderson.
“Nate’s one of the most competitive kids we have in our program,” Andersons said. “Like I was telling the other coaches, if a checker game broke out Nate would compete to the bitter end. He loves to win and he loves to compete.
“Nate will be the first one, he’s the type of kid, he will accept responsibility. He’ll tell you he made some mistakes as a freshman on the field. He’s learned from those mistakes. He’s exceptionally intelligent. I expect really big things from him.”
Known: The Eagles will be motivated to match last season’s state semifinal run, especially with enough key players left over from last season’s team, starting with senior quarterback Nic Shimonek.
For him and teammates like all-state safety Draylon Sterling, there’s always some motivation to prove you’re still good enough to win without key players lost to graduation.
“We’re going to be more motivated than we were last year,” Sterling said. “We have our horses and we have to go out there and fight and compete to get back where we were, if not further.”
Offensive lineman Noah Pennell said the Eagles can draw on the experience of last season.
“How much fun it was,” Pennell said. “How much we were motivated as a team. How we got better and stronger as a team. It’s exciting to get the feeling of having another successful season.”
Known: New Bulldogs coach Jerry Baldridge is sure of this — his players have a strong work ethic, and that’s something you can build on.
“Our kids have a great work ethic,” Baldridge said. “I know they’re going to come in with a great attitude. We had 15 or 20 of them come out this week and get on the football field on their own.”
The Bulldogs have senior tailback Ragan Henderson, who rushed for 1,118 yards last year. He’s been offered a scholarship by a four-year school but has not verbally committed.
“His work ethic is really up there,” Baldridge said. “He leads by example.”
Known: New Bulldogs coach Shane Doege is confident his players are ready for a new system and a change in the philosophy of the program.
“The energy our kids have given us is great,” Doege said. “There’s a lot of them that are excited about it. A lot more than I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
One of the changes Doege is making has to do with two-a-days. Last year Wortham practiced on a field that was no better than someone’s unwatered backyard.
This year they have a nice new practice field, and they’ll also work out at night.
“We’ll practice under the light to get them used to the stadium,” Doege said. “It’s something a little different.”
TW Summer Two-a-days Football Tour ...
Starting Monday with the opening of high school football two-a-days for Class 1A and 2A football teams, Daily Sun sports editor Todd Wills will take his annual tour of the Golden Circle. The Tigers start two-a-days on Monday, Aug. 13.
Here’s the schedule for the 2012 TW Summer Two-a-days Football Tour:
Monday: Frost Polar Bears
Tuesday: Kerens Bobcats
Wednesday: Mildred Eagles
Thursday: Hubbard Jaguars
Friday: Dawson Bulldogs
Mon., Aug. 13: Corsicana Tigers and Rice Bulldogs
Tue., Aug. 14: Wortham Bulldogs
Wed., Aug. 15: Blooming Grove Lions