Coahulla Creek’s Navy and Silver Game ended one phase and started another for the young football program.
The Colts’ intrasquad scrimmage Friday night at the school was a celebration of the end of spring practice, but also the start of the countdown to the program’s first varsity game. Coahulla Creek went 8-2 last year in its inaugural season while playing a junior varsity schedule, and the Colts will return every player from that team.
“We’re excited for the season,” said Colts coach Jared Hamlin, who will have just four seniors on his roster. “It’ll be different, but we know what we’re capable of.”
Said quarterback Hunter Williams of varsity play, “I’m not worried about it. The speed is going to be different, but we’re ready to go.”
Hamlin saw improvement throughout the team but saw the most progress on his offensive line.
He’s also pleased with the gains his team has made in the weight room since January, which he believes translated to the field Friday.
“Their stamina tonight was great,” Hamlin said. “They fought and competed with each other until the end.”
The players were drafted into two teams for the game, which had no live kicking. Williams passed for two touchdowns and ran for another as he led the Navy. He’ll be back for his junior year after missing four weeks of last season with a collarbone injury, and he said he felt no pain at all after the scrimmage.
Fullback Cordarius Tarver — who plowed over several defenders with his 6-foot-2-inch, 260-pound frame — stood out for the Silver, including on a run of more than 70 yards.
“All the football starts now,” Hamlin said. “We need to work on our timing and alignment issues before fall. There’s always room for improvement everywhere.”
But the Colts know each other much better going into this summer than last.
“Last year we had people coming in from different schools,” Williams said, “and we didn’t know what to expect. Now we know and we trust that guy next to us.”
The Colts open their season Aug. 31 at Murray County, and Hamlin hopes to continue seeing the fire and intensity he saw from his players this spring.
“I want them to compete to the best of their ability,” Hamlin said. “When they give it all they have with character, that’s success.”
• Christian Heritage: With limited numbers for most of the spring drills due to the school’s baseball team’s run in the state playoffs, Lions coach Preston Poag said he had limited contact for much of the two weeks. Friday night, the gloves were off.
“I thought we looked pretty good,” Poag said. “There was some serious hitting going on, and I was pleased with where we are right now. The first-team offense looked really good out there, and we haven’t really been hitting a whole lot, but I was pleased with some of the intensity and some of the shots that were delivered out there.”
Starting their second season under Poag, the Lions are much further along in their development this spring than they were a year ago.
“I was just sitting there all night thinking how we looked last year,” Poag said. “It is just night and day from where we were to where we are now.”
The Lions will play in its inaugural season in the Georgia High School Association in the fall, and Poag said one of the keys to making that transition is building depth on the team. Last year in the spring, Christian Heritage had 24 players. After graduating a senior class and losing six home-schoolers, this spring the Lions dressed 33.
“The biggest thing compared to last year is that we have a little more depth on the team to give some of these guys a break when they need one,” Poag said. “Last year, the fourth quarter was tough becuase there wasn’t a whole lot to go to on the bench. Now, we have guys that we can put in there and you won’t miss much of a beat. We need that.”
The culmination of spring practice was more play running than an actually scrimmage with the first-team offense running plays against the second-team defense for a set number of plays, and then vice-versa. Score wasn’t kept, but Poag heaped praise on several players.
“Quarterback Trevor Brown threw the ball as good as I have seen him throw all year,” he said. “A.J. Hooper played really well in the secondary and isn’t afraid of sticking his head in there and hitting people. Two younger kids — freshman Tyson Cooper and Baylor-transfer Kyle Stanley — will really help us out.”
Hooper is one of two rising seniors on the roster, and this is his first year playing football for the school. Fellow senior Michael McKinney was out for only half of the spring, but Poag said he assumed his leadership role with his return.
“This time last year, I didn’t know about him, but he just got better and better,” Poag said. “He is just a hard-nosed player, and he never came off of the field. I know that I can count on him.”
• North Murray: The Mountaineers’ new coach wanted to see if anyone would step up and claim one of the open positions on the line of scrimmage.
Almost all of them made a jump up, making any depth chart decisions just as tough as before.
North Murray’s annual intrasquad scrimmage ended in a 21-21 tie Friday night at the Chatsworth school, and first-year coach David Gann said the game was highlighted by strong showings from a couple skill players and a big leap from a handful of linemen.
Running back Jacob Mays scored two touchdowns while running back Christian Buckle scored one. Brady Swilling, however, was the leading rusher with more than 100 yards while going 4 for 6 passing and throwing for around 60 yards.
“(Swilling) ran the ball well on the option,” Gann said. “He was probably our overall leading rusher because he had a lot of 8-, 12- and 14-yard gainers. Jacob and Christian had big runs.”
Chris Hayes has taken over as the Mountaineers’ defensive coordinator, and Gann spoke highly of him but also admitted he has some experience in the secondary and at linebacker. Jared Campbell and John Chastain had big days at middle linebacker, but the real story was in the trenches.
“I feel pretty confident in our skill kids, but one question mark that I had coming in that I feel really good about is our line of scrimmage,” Gann said, noting Wesley Ross, Jacob Ledford and Jacob Bryson all played well. “They’re all starting to get it figured out. They were a little rusty at first.”
Coming into Friday there were four open spots on the line of scrimmage and “around 10 guys battling” for them.
“We’re going to watch film and review it as a staff,” Gann said. “They all stepped up and played great. No one separated himself from the rest because they all made a jump up.”
One area he wants to focus on heading into the summer is strength.
“We’ve got to get stronger as a football team,” he said. “One of our strengths is we’ve got four or five kids who can lift with anyone. But as a team we’ve got to get a lot stronger.”
The two teams were divided Monday between white and black jerseys and practiced against one another all week.