With spring football closed and the summer months opening, Elmore County area football coaches are taking lessons learned from early-year practices and scrimmages and applying them as they mold their teams for the upcoming fall.
Stanhope Elmore head coach Brian Bradford is among those making preparations, and with position battles and standout players evolving, he hopes this spring refocused his team after the offseason as it heads into camps and fall practices.
“I thought they competed really well,” Bradford said. “They came out fast and were really aggressive and physical. That’s the main thing that we wanted to get out of spring, to get the tough mentality back, and I thought we did.”
Bradford one of the main values of spring practice is seeing greener players compete, athletes that can fill out the depth chart and represent the future of the Mustangs’ program.
“We pretty much know what the guys who were on the team last year can do,” Bradford said. “But the young guys that have improved a lot in the offseason, we were curious what they could do. So it was good to see them and get them in a role where they could shine a little bit, show us what they can do and compete for spots.”
Several names stood out amongst the more inexperienced Mustangs, according to Bradford.
Rising junior running back Davion Thomas, a B-team running back in 2020, has been spelling fellow junior Antonio Trone as Stanhope’s featured ball carrier.
Junior Devin Gipson saw playing time last season but made a huge jump going into 2021 along the offensive line. Center Aveon Johnson took similar steps, alongside junior Jacorey Nobles at wide receiver.
But the most intriguing situation involving young players, and likely the most important position battle on the team, is at quarterback.
Sophomore Jacob Bryant, junior Colton Walls and senior Tyler Tyus are all in a fight to replace star signal-caller, Trey Killingsworth, after his graduation.
“We haven’t got it solved yet,” Bradford said. “They all did really well in the spring game, made it even harder to decide who the starter is going to be.”
One of the biggest things Bradford is sharpening ahead of the 2021 season is team chemistry.
The COVID-19 pandemic kept players isolated, even if a season was played in the end.
“We’re really looking at doing a lot of team bonding and a lot of team development stuff,” Bradford said. “A lot of leadership training, that kind of stuff. I thought that that was a big component that most teams missed last year. Just because of COVID.”
Bradford added junior defensive back Jashawn Mays, senior defensive end Caleb Foster and senior linebacker Frederick Bass will be three key defensive leaders that he’ll be training up, while on offense Trone and senior tackle Jacob Reeves will be relied upon.
The Mustangs’ season opens against Selma on Aug. 20.