Games to Watch: Wetumpka looks to defend region title

File / The Herald

Wetumpka’s David Adams brings down Benjamin Russell’s A.J. Thompson by the collar in the Indians’ contest with the Wildcats last year. Wetumpka’s game against BRHS in Week 7 will be one to watch.

There have been plenty of new hurdles and challenges for high school football teams to deal with this summer but as the offseason period nears its end, local coaching staffs have been pleasantly surprised with the progress their teams have been making since June 1.

“We started the first Monday that we could and I’ve been pleased with how the weeks have been going,” Elmore County coach Jordan Cantrell said. “It’s been a very odd year with all we have to do to prepare for workouts and what to do to keep the kids safe but they have worked hard and we’ve had a really good turnout.”

When the AHSAA announced summer workouts could resume last month, coaches put a lot of responsibility on the players, telling them there would be a lot of ground to cover to make up for the lost time without team workouts in the spring. Now, coaches are giving credit where credit is due.

“We’re very proud of our guys,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “They reported back in really good shape and it didn’t take too long to get into good enough shape to go through a full workout. They are doing a great job of complying with all of the guidelines that we have to follow to keep them as safe as we can. I’m proud of the effort they have given and the progress they are making.”

The new safety guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19 was always going to be a challenge for large group workouts like football teams have. Coaches could see players struggling with keeping their distance when possible and having masks on at appropriate times, especially early in the summer.

However, most teams have seen an improvement in how players and coaches have handled the guidelines after more time practicing what needed to be done.

“We have trained them up really good,” Cantrell said. “The coaches have done a great job to work hard together and make sure everything has run smoothly. The kids have picked up on it really well. We are thankful for every day that we have but we know we’re not invincible. I’m sure we can do better and we are always trying to find ways to do that.”

Holtville coach Jason Franklin said there are still times where he and his coaching staff has to get on to the kids for staying too close but he said that’s just a part of coaching teenagers. 

“We discuss controlling what we can control by doing good personal hygiene,” Franklin said. “It’s when they’re away from here that is my biggest concern. We worry about them here but we also have to worry about what they’re doing outside of here. That’s the scary part right now. It’s really hard to deal with. Coaches want to be in control but we don’t really have that outside of here.”

Despite the concerns, Franklin said the summer has still been productive for the Bulldogs on the field and in the weight room. The focus has mostly been on strength and conditioning but Holtville, along with the other local teams, are starting to transition more into technique and some scheme.

“It’s been a lot of individual fundamental work and walkthrough install,” Franklin said. “That’s where we’re at.”

The Bulldogs are not the only ones starting to take the next stop in the process. Fall camp is less than two weeks away and teams are trying to be efficient with their time to prepare for the season. 

“We’re still going to get our weight room work and conditioning but we are going to look at field work,” Cantrell said. “We want to get stuff installed and getting people in their positions. That’s important right now.”

Perry said, “We’re trying to move our workouts from the main focus on strength and conditioning to now starting to install offensive and defensive schemes. The older guys are picking it up and the younger guys are catching on. They are attentive and are trying to soak all of it in.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.