Thursday, July 24, 2008
Practice starts soon
By BARRY BURLESON
Marshall Academy will be the first county school to officially kick off football practice. The Patriots start next Monday, July 28, at 3 p.m.
“I’ve never done two-a-days,” head coach Keith Wicker said. “We will just go until we get tired.”
Last year Wicker, in his first season as head coach, led MA to the Mississippi Private School Association Class AA state championship game. They lost 36-21 to Centreville and finished with a 12-2 record.
“The players coming back know what it takes,” he said. “They know how to prepare. They know the emphasis is on our conference games.
“Leadership will be a key. We have to find some leaders, and that’s still up in the air.”
The goal, he said, is getting back to the playoffs.
“We don’t talk state championship,” Wicker said. “You get in the playoffs first and then go from there.”
The district race will be “tough,” he said, with the likes of Lee (Clarksdale), Kirk and Indianola. And just as last season, three of the Patriots’ first four games are district ones – starting with the opener Friday night, Aug. 22, at Lee (Ark.).
“I’ll be glad when we get out of that,” Wicker said.
He expects about 29 players when practice starts Monday. Many of those have been working out through the summer – which has included pulling sleds and running sprints the past few weeks.
“Our numbers are up a little bit,” Wicker said. “We have some out who have never played before and we have a couple of new kids to our school.”
The veteran coach said success “starts with the offensive line; no matter how good your backs are.”
And there’s experience returning up front with Anderson Sawyer, Colby Curtis and Spencer Autry. Plus, he expects solid contributions from Robbie Lundine, Rodney Robinson and Will Patton, along with some 10th graders in their first year on the varsity.
“We’re going to be OK there (on the line), just not any big, big guys,” Wicker said. “We can’t power anybody, so we will probably depend on a lot of misdirection and trapping.”
Some good backs return, too, he said, like Taylor Dempsey, Hunter Bolden and Tyler Childers.
Defensively, Wicker said his team should be fast.
“Hopefully, we hit somebody, too,” he said. “Defense is where you win games. We have to be good defensively, and of course, most of our guys will be going boy ways (offense and defense).”
Joining him on the coaching staff will be Russell Cook, Jeff Dalton, Johnny Ray and Keith Owens (who will be head junior high coach).
“We’re all excited about the season,” he said. “We just have to prepare.
“And I don’t know yet about this team’s desire. Like any team trying to reach their goals, they have to dig down deeper.”
The Patriots will play in a jamboree Thursday, Aug. 14, at Lee (Clarksdale). A schedule has not been announced.
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