One down. One to go. As the season opener against Leavenworth quickly approaches, Great Bend will use one more scrimmage to iron out any preseason wrinkles before the Panthers and Pioneers go head to head September 4 at Memorial Stadium.
Coach Tony Crough and his staff pitted the Panthers against each other this past Saturday and had a first hand look at the beginning of a promising 2015 run.
“Most importantly we got some really good reps in today,” said Crough. “We had a solid preview of not only the varsity but some very talented youngsters on the JV and freshmen teams.”
Crough quickly turned his attention to the defense.
“Our defensive unit was just flying around the field today,” Crough said. “They looked great just swarming to the ball and making some big stops. I’m just super excited and hopeful to see those guys reach their potential this season.”
“We just love to come out here and compete in something that is different from practice,” said senior defensive back Jose Batres. “Everybody just gets after each other. There’s just a lot of enthusiasm and everybody’s just competing and having fun. We’re just excited to go 100 percent when Leavenworth shows up.”
When asked about team focus this week, Batres says polishing technique will be at the forefront. “It’s just perfecting everything we do,” he said. “Tackling well, covering, just getting in people’s faces and just working on everything the defense does well.”
“Our offensive line really stepped up a lot today,” said junior quarterback Jacob Murray. “The receivers were providing some good looks and targets. We’re wanting to get a fast paced offense going and I like how the whole unit is progressing.”
Murray noted that speed and quickness will be needed when facing a sizeable roster like Leavenworth.
“We’re a smaller team so we’ll really want to focus on being up tempo, being quick when running no huddle and keeping the pace going,” he said.
“For our first scrimmage I thought both sides of the line played really competitive football today,” said senior center Alex Deist. “We’ve been in full pads for about a week but this was really the first chance for us to come out and really make some contact.”
Deist said preparation during the offseason has provided dividends for fall camp.
“Our transition was good coming out of the spring and summer,” said Deist. “Our whole coaching staff just did and excellent job in preparing the team for preseason and I think that will carry over when the season starts.”
“Offensively, I like the way we’re moving the ball,” Crough said. “We’re making strides and still learning some new things in our offense but we have some real play makers who I’m confident will go the distance for us.”
Despite a windy Saturday morning, Crough said the atmosphere was where he hoped it would be for the first scrimmage.
“Our tempo, just like it was in the first week of practice, has been very positive and fast paced,” the coach said.
“As coaches, we’re just very pleased with the spirit and excitement that our guys have brought to practice and hopefully, they’ll carry that mental momentum into the season. We’ve really emphasized putting the ‘team’ concept over the ‘me’ attitude and they’ve responded very well just at playing with an unselfish attitude.”
While much of the emphasis is placed at the varsity level, Crough has kept an attentive eye on several of the newer and younger talent, especially the freshmen tandem of Koy Brack and Reece Morss.
“Although they’re just freshmen we have them both penciled in to play some JV this season,” Crough said.
“Koy is really looking like he could be one of our backups at quarterback. I look for some big things from him as he matures and develops through high school. Reece is very big for a freshmen and makes a great target for Koy at wideout and he’s also a strong force on defense. Those two are standouts but there’s about twenty in that freshman class that have a lot of talent and potential to be very good football players,” he said.
“I felt our freshmen and sophomores really showed a lot of intensity today,” said Deist. “They’re the key to prepare us on the varsity for every game. They make us better and have to be tough because they’re out here every week taking a beating from the older and more experienced players.”
Friday’s final scrimmage will be an opportunity to fine tune the offense and defense and tie up any loose ends according to Crough.
“It will be more of a dress rehearsal than anything else,” he said . “We’ll be a week away from Leavenworth and so we’ll focus on everything we would like to do on game night. It will also be an opportunity for any final depth chart adjustments.”