Pads were popping, whistles were blowing and coaches were screaming. It only took one day for the Warren County High School football team to get in full swing for fall practice.
Monday was the official beginning of practice for the 2011 Pioneer football team. Coach Tommy Johnson began his second season the same way he did his first, with the team staying at Charlie Dalton Gym for camp. The Pioneers had 72 players show up on Sunday night to participate in the week-long camp.
Coach Johnson and the Pioneers hit the field twice on the first day, with each session being in full pads. Coach Johnson thought the first practice was slow moving, something he expected with players getting acclimated with the heat and practicing in pads for the first time.
“Things were a little slow in the morning. The guys were getting used to the heat and playing in pads,” said Johnson. “I thought things picked up in the afternoon, especially offensively.”
The Pioneers are trying to replace the loss of 17 seniors, including many two-way starters last season. Coach Johnson will be filling many of those holes with younger players, many of which got their first taste of varsity practice Monday morning.
Highlights from the first session included the team participating in the Oklahoma Drill, which pits the offense versus the defense in head-to-head matchups.
After the first workout, the team headed back to the gym where tables had been set up for the team and lunch was waiting.
The team got a brief rest before players returned back to the field at 4 p.m. for the second practice.
Coach Johnson and his staff worked on individual position work for most of the afternoon before getting team drills going in the final 15 minutes.
Coach Johnson noticed the fatigue his team started to exhibit near the end of the second practice. The Pioneers head man hopes his team can continue to work and concentrate even as exhaustion sets in.
“Guys were getting tired at the end of the day,” said Johnson. “We have to be able to stay focused when we’re tired and work through it. Execution will be the key.”
Coach Johnson also hopes his team continues to progress defensively as camp continues. With many new faces on the defense and players getting used to pads, coach Johnson wants to see the intensity turn up.
“We’re not as aggressive as we need to be,” said Johnson. “We have to play defense with aggression.”
The Pioneers will get their first action against an opponent on Thursday night. Warren County will travel to Lincoln County for a full-pad scrimmage against the Falcons.
Friday will bring the Pioneers another test. The Riverdale Warriors come to Warren County High School for a scrimmage. The full-pad workout will be held at the practice field at WCHS beginning at 6 p.m.
Monday practice notes
The Pioneers quarterback race is still a two-man battle between senior Connor Dixon and sophomore Hunter Mullican. Dixon took the first snaps with the first-team offense in team drills at the end of Monday’s practice and completed his first pass on an underneath route for a first down. The passing game is still a work in process as the receivers dropped passes and Dixon and Mullican both missed receivers with errant throws. Dixon had a 15-yard scramble for a first down as defenders went into two-hand touch mode as the QB scrambled in a red “no-contact” jersey.
Trying to replace Caleb Northcutt could be feat which falls on more than one person. Cameron Lusk, a sophomore, and freshman Bryson Lewis split snaps with the first-team offense. The duo could form a “smash-and-dash” combination, as Lusk is effective between the tackles and Lewis shows a burst on the outside.
The running back with the most highlights in Monday’s workout though was senior Calvin Hammond. Hammond had a 40-yard touchdown run and scored twice during short-yardage work at the goal line. Hammond could be used in similar goal-line sets but projects as one of the team’s starting linebackers.
Ryan McColloch and Justin Ware each had big moments on defense during group drills.
McColloch had an interception off a tipped ball, which he returned for 20 yards as coaches praised his quick reaction off the carom.
Ware made a big play during goal-line work. The senior, who is playing his first year of high school football, broke through the line for a sack and strip. The fumble was recovered and nearly returned for a touchdown, but junior defensive end Aaron McKinley was chased down.
Johnny Smith is the lone kicker on the team and the sophomore showed a strong leg during field-goal drills. Smith connected on 8-of-9 field goals with his lone miss coming from 32 yards on the left hash.