In April 4 IssueBy Derek AaronRussell County News Editor
Coming off of a 4-7 season and after losing 15 seniors including a four-year starter at quarterback, Russell County High School Laker head football coach Bill Sharp said his team is in “rebuilding” mode for the 2009 season during the team’s spring workouts this past week.
“We were a very very competitive football team last year,” he said. “Our record didn’t really indicate how competitive and tough we were.”
Eight of the teams the Lakers played made the playoffs last fall and the Lakers lost five games by a touchdown or less.
The Lakers ended the season with a 34-19 defeat at Calloway County in the KHSAA 4A state high school playoffs.
Sharp said this year’s senior class is a small one but that the junior class and other underclassmen have good numbers.
“We’ll probably have some freshmen that see some action on Friday nights,” he said. The incoming freshman class won their conference title last season, but Sharp said Laker fans shouldn’t get their hopes up too soon.
“There is a big difference from 8th grade football and football on the high school level, just the athleticism and skill up here is so much more,” Sharp said.
But the spring brings an evaluation time for the Laker football program.
“We’re basically just out here to get a little offense and defense in, but mostly trying to look at some of the young kids that we didn’t get a chance to look at when they were freshman,” Sharp said. “Trying to evaluate and make sure we get kids in the right spots come fall.”
He said the two-week spring practice session was difficult because of the team’s lack of a solid quarterback. In the past four years the Lakers have had Bryon Ellis under center in the spring, but Ellis has graduated and his backup, junior-to-be Martin Cross, is currently playing for the Laker baseball team.
“We’ve got a couple of kids working at quarterback but they are not our traditional quarterbacks,” he said.
Sharp did say he was “pleasantly surprised” with some of the new faces out for spring ball.
While not yet mentioning any names, he said there were even some upperclassmen out for the spring that did not play last fall.
Sharp said the spring practice session was less intense than practice in the fall but that it was a chance for players to get their minds focused back on the gridiron.
“We don’t yell and holler and fuss,” he said. “It is much less intense.”
“Most of these guys have been in the weight room all winter and the older guys like to get out here and butt heads a little bit and we try to give them that opportunity,” he said. In the same manner, Sharp said he and his assistants were trying to get the younger players to not shy away from the game’s contact.
The Laker coach said the team participates in more fun activities for the players that may not be as football related in the spring.
One of those activities is speedball, a modified game of pigskin where two teams take on each other with everyone as eligible receivers.
Sharp also relished the fact that most of his coaching staff could join him for spring practice this year.
Longtime assistant Charlie Anderson stepped away from his position as baseball assistant coach last summer and is now out with the team. Assistant Vince Stephens, who had also been involved with middle school baseball in years past, is also out with the team this spring.
Assistants Ryan Richardson, Brad Crowe and Anthony Darnell are also joining the team out this spring.
Sharp said the team would go to a team camp later this summer, more than likely at Georgetown College, Sharp said.
“I like to let the kids experience several different college campuses while they’re here,” he said.
Sharp said he was anxious for the season to get underway in September and that he would once again field a team Russell County could be proud of.