Photos by Barry BurlesonBrady Jeans snaps the football back to Jeremiah Jones during Monday morning drills.
Assistant coach Gary Hickman hands off to Drayton Potts.
Photos by Barry BurlesonHead coach Barrett Donahoe goes over assignments with (from left) Will Hanggi, Brady Jeans, Keaton Morgan, Wyle McMillen, Jason McDoniel and Devarius Harris.
Slater Knox of Marshall goes through an agility drill.
Football practice begins
Marshall Academy is the first team to take to the practice field for the 2018 season.
The Patriots started Monday morning with the season opener set for August 17 at home versus Lee Academy.
Holly Springs, H.W. Byers, Potts Camp and Byhalia will begin practice next Monday, July 30.
“We’re excited about this group,” said Barrett Donahoe, head coach at MA. “This is a good group of kids who we know will work hard.
“We have some experience returning and some new faces. We have to find ways to put them in the right positions to be successful.”
Donahoe will take over as offensive coordinator this season, while a new hire, Bruce Branch, will lead the defense. Jason Taylor is back in his role as coach of the offensive and defensive lines.
“The first week of practice we will focus a lot on some new things offensively,” Donahoe said. “We want to prepare ourselves to be as good as we can be offensively on August 17.
“And that’s not taking away from the defensive side of the football. But I feel our guys have a good understanding there of what we are trying to do.”
Branch also worked with Donahoe a few years ago at Heritage Academy in Columbus.
“We ran a 4-3 scheme on defense, and he did a good job of preparing the guys each week,” Donahoe said.
“We’ve transitioned to more of a 4-2 at Marshall, but it’s not a lot different than the 4-3. We just consider ourselves as having five defensive backs on the field at the same time.
“There are personnel differences on how we cover in the secondary, but the defensive front is the same and the linebacker reads are the same.”
He said Jeremiah Jones and Wyle McMillen split time at quarterback during seven-on-seven competition this summer.
“Our goal is getting the best 11 athletes on the field,” Donahoe said. “Both of those guys will be an important part of what we are trying to do to be successful.”
He said the offensive players in the skill positions and the defensive secondary got some good work in seven-on-seven.
“I believe we are ahead of the game as far as that goes – our routes with our receivers and our secondary coverage,” Donahoe said.
Drayton Potts will play a key role in the backfield, and Donahoe said he looking for more depth at that position.
Filling leading roles defensively will be Devarius Harris and Will Hanggi up front and Everette Jones and Reagan White in the secondary.
“I like where we are in key positions defensively, but we still have to get some other guys up to speed,” Donahoe said.
MA also has experience returning in the offensive line in the likes of Zach Sorrell, Thomas Stewart and Jason McDoniel. Coach Donahoe said Keaton Morgan is one of the newcomers who will be expected to “step up” and fill a role.
“As is the case with any school our size (Class AA in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools), we will have to stay healthy,” he said.
The Patriots will go to Pillow Academy (in Greenwood) on Friday, Aug. 3, for a scrimmage. They will not participate in a jamboree leading up to the season.
After opening against the Lee Colts at home, MA will visit West Memphis Christian (Ark.) and Falkner before hosting Kirk Academy. The first District 1-AA game is September 14 at Central Holmes.
“Our goal is to be playing really well by the fifth week of the season,” Donahoe said. “When you get into conference play, you have to be successful.”
H.W. Byers will actually kick off the 2018 season for county schools when it hosts Hickory Flat on Thursday, Aug. 16.
Other openers set for Friday, Aug. 17, are Holly Springs at Byhalia and Potts Camp at Lee Academy in Marianna, Ark.