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WillCo football teams endure first practices in full pads


WillCo football teams endure first practices in full pads

High school teams from across Williamson County practiced in full pads for the first time this season on Monday.

High school football has returned in Tennessee.

On Monday, teams from across the state practiced in full pads for the first time this season.

Here’s a look-in at some of the practices that took place in Williamson County:

Brentwood Bruins

If there’s one thing Brentwood head coach Ron Crawford wants his players to do this week, it’s for them to learn how to practice.

Players discovered Monday morning what kind of tempo Crawford and his coaching staff will expect from them throughout the season.

“I think it shocked them a little bit,” said Crawford, who returned to BHS in December after spending three seasons coaching at Cleveland (Tn.) High School. “We didn’t get off to the start we wanted to. I think the way we practice is new to these guys, and then I think the heat creeped up on them. We’ll get through it and we’ll get better each and every day.”

While there’s plenty for his team to work on, Crawford said there were some bright spots he could take away from the first day.

“Offensively, I’m happy with our leadership from our quarterbacks (Carson Croy, Carson Shacklett), and now we need leadership from our other positions. As for our varsity defense, I think they followed through very well. Our junior varsity team has a really slow learning curve — we’re deliberately doing that — and our varsity team is our advanced-placement team.”

Another highlight for the Bruins was the return of senior running back/linebacker Ahmad Arnold, who was recently cleared to practice just six and a half months after suffering an ACL tear in a basketball game.

“It was fun to be back out there,” said Arnold, a Samford football commit. “My knee is a little sore, but I can work through it. I’m ready to handle the workload.”

The Bruins will cap off their first week in pads with a scrimmage at Beech High School at 6 p.m. Friday. Their other two scrimmages are at home against Stewarts Creek on Aug. 7 and Station Camp on Aug. 11.

Ravenwood Raptors

Despite having the task of replacing several starters both sides of the ball, Ravenwood head coach Will Hester said there was a lot to like out his team in its first practice at Camp Y.I. in LaVergne.

“The energy was high and everybody was excited,” he said. “We got a lot done today.”

After being able to throw the ball throughout the summer in 7-on-7s, the Raptors utilized their first practice by working on their ground attack with running backs Chris Rowland and Connor Jeffries.

“The run game looked more crisp, which I expected it to,” Hester said. “In 7-on-7, you a lot of the time throw the ball, so the run game kind of suffers. Today was the first day we really cranked up running the football, and I was impressed.”

A battle that will be carrying on for the next few weeks is for the starting quarterback job, as senior Andrew Rappe’ and junior McCain Marrow compete to replace Cole Brown (UT-Chattanooga).

“Whichever guy can control the team better will move forward as our quarterback,” Hester said. “Obviously, Andrew has more experience, and if we started the season today he’d be our quarterback. However, we love to have competition at the position.”

Brentwood Academy Eagles

BA returns eight starters to an offense that averaged 36.9 points per game last season. While there’s plenty of experience on that side of the ball, head coach Cody White said the unit struggled in its first day in full pads.

“First days of practice are always a little rough for the offense. We have some work to do, but we’ll be alright. The kids played hard and they’re coachable.”

While the offense didn’t practice up to par, White said he liked what he saw out of his defense.

“The kids flew around. The linebackers played pretty decent today, and that’s a point where we have to get better at from last year. We have some experienced secondary guys that do a good job and they play well.”

“We need to make sure we’re not making the same mistakes each and every day. As long as we do that, that means we’re improving. These kids are very coachable and they’ll do a good job.”

Battle Ground Academy Wildcats

The Division II-A state runner-up BGA Wildcats kicked off their first day of practice with their annual “Midnight Madness.”

“It was good to get back into full pads and get back in the swing of it,” said BGA head coach Roc Batten. “I thought we had really good energy. The kids were bouncing around and were really excited about the opportunity to compete with each other.”

There’s a big comfort level for Batten and his staff with the return of starting quarterback and DII-A Mr. Football Award winner Clay Beathard (2,656 pass yds, 570 rush yds, 33 TDs).

“This is the first time since we’ve been here as a staff that we’ve had a guy start for an entire season and then return for the next year,” Batten said. “It’s exciting because Clay did a lot of good things for us last year. I have really seen him step up and be a leader for our guys throughout the spring and the summer. We expect him to take on a greater role, not just in the offense, but on the leadership side of things.”

Batten said the offense looked good for its first practice in full gear.

“I always feel like going into your first day in pads that the offense tends to be a little bit further ahead because of 7-on-7s and things we do during the summer. Of course, there are a lot of things we need to work on, but we had really good tempo and we worked on some things we really wanted to focus on.”

Defensively, Batten was impressed with the unit’s tempo throughout the night.

“I just really loved their energy and excitement out there. A big emphasis for us is that we want to pursue the football and bring 11 hats to the ball, so it was exciting to see our guys bring that type of effort out there.”

Overall, BGA will worry about only itself for this first week of practice.

“We don’t scrimmage anybody this week — we just focus on us,” Batten said. “This week is about us being fundamentally sound, fundamentally better and understanding our offensive and defensive concepts. Our football program is about a process, and part of that process is focusing on us and honing down on ways we can improve.”

BGA will host Ensworth for a scrimmage on Aug. 4 and Lipscomb on Aug. 7. It well then travel to Christ Presbyterian Academy Aug. 14 for its final scrimmage before the regular season.

Centennial Cougars

Hitting and system installation will be Centennial’s two focal points in its first week in full pads.

“We want their bodies to be used to the contact of full gear,” said CHS head coach Brian Rector. “Obviously, we’ll be hitting a little bit more and try to get that shored up. Then, we want to get our offensive and defensive systems in, as well as clean up things with our special teams.”

While Centennial has an ongoing starting quarterback battle between seniors Tristan Pisacane and Blake Lovell, it has the comfort of knowing it has four starters returning to the offensive line.

After the quarterbacks and skill position players had plenty of time to shine in 7-on-7s throughout the summer, Rector said he’s looking forward to seeing his big men competing throughout the week.

“Everybody is used to doing 7-on-7 and the perimeter stuff, but at the end of the day, games really are won and lost by how effective you can be on the line. Once you get into pads, it definitely becomes real football.”

The Cougars host Smyrna for a scrimmage at 5 p.m. Friday and Siegel on Aug. 7. Their last scrimmage is at Father Ryan on Aug. 14.

Franklin Rebels

The Rebels enter this fall with an inexperienced team after losing several starters from last season.

Offensively, the squad is tasked with replacing three-year starting quarterback Joe Critchlow. On defense, Franklin returns only a handful of players that saw valuable playing time in 2014.

With so much uncertainty on both sides of the ball, the Rebels will look to keep things simple for the first few days of practice.

“We have to learn the physical part of the game,” said FHS head coach Donnie Webb. “We’ve been coaching techniques and schemes, but now everything speeds up because of the physical part of the game.”

Senior Kyle Evans, junior Wes Patterson and sophomores Drew Martin and Carter Hendry are all competing for the starting quarterback job.

“They need to be very coachable, be leaders and just do what they’re supposed to do for the team in order to win the job,” Webb said.

Defensively, Franklin has to find a way to combat its youth and inexperience.

“We have so many players that weren’t on the field last year,” Webb stated. “We still have to understand what we want to do from a schematic point, and then be able to take it and be aggressive and physical within the defense.

“Our goal is just to be better on Friday than we were on Monday.”

Franklin travels to scrimmage Blackman Friday.

Sam McGaw is sports editor of Home Page Media Group. Email him at sam@brentwoodhomepage.com and follow him on Twitter @SamMcGawSports.

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