The Dailiy Tribune News
Three Bartow County schools wrapped up their 10-day spring practices with a series of scrimmage games Friday evening, laying the groundwork for what they hope is a successful fall campaign.
At the scrimmages, the offenses and defenses at each level squared off, pitting the schools’ No. 1 offenses against their No. 1 defenses, and any combination of team variations possible to provide every team member with playing time.
The coaches at all three schools said they used the spring practices to work with their players on basic offensive and defensive play, but the success of their fall seasons will rest on what the players learn during practice, camps and work in the weight rooms this summer.
This year’s Tigers have a lot of returning players — some starting two and three years — and head coach Jim Kremer said coaches believe they have laid the foundation for filling in the vacancies on the team.
He said coaches used spring practice to make sure they are putting as many playmakers as possible on the field at one time during games.
“We feel we have the right kids in the right position,” he said. “We have a long way to go, but we got a lot done in our two weeks.”
Kremer said during the spring practice games on Friday, the offense “scored four or five touchdowns” and got some quality time on the field.
He estimated about 120 players — including 25 seniors — got on the grass throughout the evening.
“Our defense seemed to be a little ahead of our offense at this point, but that’s usually the way it is,” he said. “Everyone got in and I was very pleased with their work.”
Kremer said the Tigers have 15 returning starters and they are capable of having a good season “if” the team does the little things this summer, during practices, at camps and in the weight room. “If we have a great summer program, I think we’ll be pretty good this fall.”
The coach said the team also has some intangibles that may work in its favor.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed about this team is they are close,” he said. “There are some smart kids and a lot of high-character kids.”
Kremer said they have the type of athletes a coaching staff wants to work with and who are willing to do the things necessary so they can play up to their potential.
“If we take care of the little things, I think we can be competitive,” he said, “but we have to take care of the little things.”
Cass lost a ton of seniors last season, and Friday’s scrimmage seemed filled with players starting to make their cases to become starters in the fall.
About 90 players participated, and the Colonels’ coaching staff got a close look at a lot of players aggressively making blocks and tackles as well as going to open spaces with the ball.
The school’s football uniforms will be filled with about 18 new starters in the fall, which will mark the first season for the Colonels at the facilities. Although the new Cass High opened the past year, the football team played last fall at Earl Cunningham Stadium.
Head coach Rick Casko said the Colonels made a lot of progress in two weeks, and it was evident at the spring scrimmage, the first of many that will be played at the new facility.
“The players knew where they were supposed to be, who to hit and how to tackle, and there was a lot of effort,” Casko said. “Now they have to work hard this summer and improve their understanding of their positions.”
Casko said how the Colonels do this summer, both during practices and at various camps, as well as in the weight room, will determine how they fare in Region 7-AAAA, a very competitive region.
At the conclusion of the scrimmage, Casko reminded players that they will play against Adairsville in a scrimmage game in August and then open their regular season by hosting Woodland.
He asked the players to keep their thoughts on the Tigers and Wildcats as they are working hard in preparation for the fall pigskin season.
“We need to outwork them this summer, so we can outplay them this fall,” he said.
The Woodland defense made life miserable Friday for its teammates on the offensive side of the ball, forcing numerous quarterback hurries and countless turnovers.
“In one series, I think they had three or four turnovers,” first-year Woodland football coach Vince DiLorenzo said. “They had touchdowns, they had interception [returns for] touchdowns, they had fumbles. They had fumbles where they had held the guy up, and they stripped the ball. … Every way imaginable you could create a turnover our defense [did it]. We tipped the ball and intercepted it.
“When you look at Chandler Royal and Johnny Wiley and Shelby Townsend and Dino Dorris and Jacob Chastain and Brandon Thompson … We’re going to be deep and, I think, good on defense, and it sure showed tonight.”
The offense, which is incorporating the spread attack, did not perform to nearly the capacity of the Woodland defense.
“In the spring, my promise to those players was, ‘If you come out, you’re going to get reps,’” DiLorenzo said. “I’m not trying to win a game. I want to make sure everybody gets coached and has a good experience. When you do that, then you’re treating everybody the same. When we come back in the fall, it will be time to prepare for the season and everybody will get an early shot, but then we will begin to focus on those players that will be the ones that we’ll depend on to win on Friday nights while still coaching the JV and making sure they can get reps.
“But we’re going to focus on those guys that are gonna be the playmakers on Friday, and we’re gonna scheme to try to take advantage so that we give our offense more weapons and more tools to use.”
DiLorenzo did not think the change in offense — from a team that lined up primarily in the “T” formation to a shotgun-heavy scheme — had any real bearing on the offensive line’s struggles.
“The guy, Clint Lemon, who did start, who did play last year, did a great job. I mean, he was the best linemen we had,” DiLorenzo said. “We had a few injuries, we had some young guys, so that group is a group that’s gonna have to work hard over the summer [and] develop some cohesiveness ’cause we had some injuries. I don’t think it was really anything about the transition as much as it was inexperience and then I think a pretty good defense.”
Due to those factors, evaluating the Wildcats’ potential starter at quarterback was difficult.
“It’s unfair to judge their performance tonight because, again, we had snap problems, we had protection problems. But I was pleased with the way the quarterbacks progressed over the spring,” DiLorenzo said. “I was pleased with the way they were able to run the offense, but the position is wide open. It is wide open, and the person or persons that work hard over the summer [and dedicate] themselves to being our quarterback [will win the job], and I believe we’ll have some guys that’ll do that.”
RJ Williams and Qua Stocks are near the top of the depth chart.
Williams had a 30-plus yard touchdown pass to Twan Terrell negated because of an offensive pass interference call and the signal-caller also had a 20-yard scramble off of a broken play.
Stocks had a couple of first-down completions to wide receiver Greg Murphy.
Also keeping his name in the mix is Michael Konyha, who burst up the sideline for an almost 40-yard run.
“RJ and Qua Stocks are the top two right now. Michael Konyha had a great spring, showed me something tonight,” DiLorenzo said. “And then the guy that’s the unknown — but who is a great athlete, had a great year last year on the freshmen squad [and] is a heck of a baseball player — is Mason Robinson. He was involved in the baseball team; they made the playoffs.
“When he came back … we had already been through a week of practice. For me to go back and re-teach the offense so that he could catch up wasn’t fair to those other guys that had been out there, so he and I agreed — he wouldn’t have to come to spring. But he told me, and I believe him, that he’s going to be here June 6, and he’s going to dedicate himself to compete for the starting quarterback’s job, so I think we’ll have three or four of those guys that will compete for that job.”