One of the biggest differences for Christian Heritage through the first few days of practice has been the amount of work they've been able to do early.
“Overall, as a team, we're in the best shape we've been in in several years,” Crusaders coach John Merrell said. “We did a little bit better job with our summer workouts. We didn't focus as much on lifting weights as we had in the past, we really worked on the cardio and that's paying off.”
CHA returns six starters on each side of the ball, including most of a strong front seven on defense.
“We're pretty optimistic about things,” Merrell said. “We've got a murderous schedule, but we're really looking forward to it.”
The Crusaders, in addition to their district games, play a non-district schedule that includes two-time defending champion Hennessey, Lincoln Christian, Stroud and Mount St. Mary's.
DIBBLE PLANNING OKLAHOMA DRILL
After an expected light day Thursday, Dibble coach J.R. Conrad plans to put his players through the “Oklahoma Drill” on Friday as the team practices with pads for the first time.
“To me, I think that's what kind of defines you,” Conrad said. “It's not a test of manhood but just seeing all the guys go through that helps make your team.”
As much as anything, Conrad said, the drill helps bring the team together.
“You want everyone to see your quarterback in there getting hit,” Conrad said. “You want them to know everybody's committed and everyone's making the same sacrifices.
MILLWOOD HAS WEALTH OF EXPERIENCE
Millwood graduated a few important pieces off last year's Class 2A semifinal squad, but the number of juniors, sophomores and freshmen who contributed was immense.
That's why the Falcons are among the top contenders in 2A, with returning players like quarterback London Potts, linebacker Larry Lambeth, and defensive back Dashawn Stephens.
The Falcons have spots to fill on the lines, and Potts split time under center last year, but the team has a bevy of gifted playmakers, including Camron Batson, Alfonso McMillan, Sheldon Bulock and others, to carry the load on both sides of the ball.
CONRAD SYMPATHIZES WITH LUTHER
Conrad knows what things have been like for Luther coach Shawn Meek in the opening week of practice.
A little more than a year ago, when a tornado came through Dibble, Conrad hit the phones and started calling his players to make sure they were all right.
Meek has been through a similar situation this week with the wildfires in Luther.
“It's tough,” Conrad said. “I can see where he's coming from now. It's not easy but they're going to pull through and be OK. We've definitely been thinking about them.”
LUTHER'S WEATHERS MOVES TO QB
Haskell Browning had been keeping the starting quarterback's seat warm the last couple of seasons, but now, senior Austin Weathers will get his chance to fill the role under new head coach Meek.
Weathers has been playing for the Lions at defensive end and tight end, and he got some spot action at QB last season.
“He's a first-year starter, but he has taken a lot of snaps,” Meek said. “He started a couple games last year when Haskell was out. He has experience. He's a bright kid and a tough kid. If you give me two qualities in a quarterback, I want smart and tough.”
Weathers has a dangerous weapon with him in the backfield in running back Steven Northerton.
“He's gonna have to touch the ball for us a lot,” Meek said. “Steven does a lot of things for us, and we'll try to give him the ball in multiple positions. He's a pretty dynamic kid.”
District 2A-2 coaches' poll
1. Millwood (11-3)
2. OCS (9-3)
3. Christian Heritage (5-5)
4. Luther (5-6)
5. Dibble (8-5)
6. Northeast (3-7)
7. Crooked Oak (1-9)
Note: Last year's records in parentheses