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Gone campin’: Reports from first week of prep football practice
There’s a bit of a theme for fall camp for the Dr. Phillips Panthers — energy.
The energy starts with head coach Rodney Wells, beginning his fourth season atop the program at Dr. Phillips, and seeps into his coaching staff and players. During practice on Friday, music was blaring and there was a noticeable level of excitement from the Panthers — even with the regular season opener still three weeks away.
“There has to be energy — we don’t do it any other way,” Wells said. “We expect passion, we expect energy, we expect high-intensity. “
Wells added that there would be no significant changes in plans of attack for either Dr. Phillips’ offense or defense. The Panthers have continuity under center with senior Rudy Norwood returning, but are looking to iron out the depth chart at running back and wide receiver between now and the preseason opener on Aug. 22.
With a roster full of well-known names in recruiting circles and plenty of offensive firepower, Bob Head’s West Orange Warriors came into fall camp last week with a pretty good idea of what the plan of attack would be this fall.
With roughly 100 kids turning out for the first day of practice at West Orange, what Head and his staff have been focused on in the first week is setting the tone for a program with state title-aspirations — and getting the newcomers to the team, whether they be freshmen or transfers, acclimated to the way things are done on Beulah Road.
“It’s the Warrior Way – it’s our way,” Head said. “They’ve got to learn how we work, they got to learn how we communicate, how we do things.
“It’s just something that they’re going to have to learn and get accustomed to quickly.”
Energy was the theme at Ocoee, where head coach Dale Salapa says a positive and enthusiastic atmosphere pervaded the first week of camp.
“The attitude of this group is as good as I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Salapa said. “Some of the stuff that wasn’t entirely positive has disappeared.”
Salapa, who is entering his third season leading the Knights, said that the defense has been coming along under new coordinator Jerry Middleton, the replacement for Chip Petree, who left for an out-of-state job in the offseason.
With 22 seniors returning for the 2014 season, Olympia Titans head coach Tom Paolucci said after Friday’s practice that he was impressed with the demeanor his kid had brought to the table for the first week of fall camp.
“I really like the maturity of our kids — we’re starting to grow up,” Paolucci said.
Paolucci is in his second year leading the Titans and told the team that afternoon that Friday’s practice had been one of the best since he had arrived, referencing the maturity and work ethic on display.
The first week of camp also saw a replacement emerge for former quarterback Deandre Francois, who transferred to IMG Academy in the offseason, with Khalyn Strickland tabbed as tops on Olympia’s depth chart under center.
Strickland, a junior, backed up Francois last season and saw playing time as a freshman.
While some players on the roster for Windermere Prep have been working out with the team all summer, others had a obligations that kept them from maintaining a peak level of conditioning.
Part of the emphasis for the Lakers during the first week of practice, according to head coach Jacob Doss, was bringing those kids up to speed.
“We always do a conditioning test that first day back, and then we do it about two weeks in, and they’re really, really surprised at the results,” Doss said.
Windermere Prep had a team-building night on Friday and put pads on for the first time at Saturday’s practice.
“We installed a whole new offense and we’re installing a whole new defense,” Legacy head coach Jarrett Wiggers said. “The emphasis the first week was just to teach.”
The offensive installation has had an added focus on versatility, as the Eagles hope to mix up their attack between the air and ground game this coming season. With some players back for a third season — Legacy’s program is, itself, entering its third year — Wiggers is also hopeful for veterans on the roster to emerge as leadaers.
“I feel like we’re starting to come together as a unit,” Wiggers said.
In moving from defensive coordinator into the role of head coach for the Central Florida Christian Academy Eagles this past offseason, Michael Bonneville says one of the foundations of the new culture he wants to create is accountability.
“[Players’] holding each other accountable, [holding] coaches accountable, as well,” Bonneville said. “And then team unity — that’s big.”
As for schemes, Bonneville promises an “in your face,” aggressive attack on both side of the ball, noting that on offense the Eagles will likely be using plenty of play-action to keep opponents honest.
Familiarity has been a boon for the Foundation Academy Lions in the first week of fall camp.
Head coach Brad Lord said on Monday that, with a strong group of returners back for the 2014 season, he and his staff haven’t had to put too much of an emphasis on teaching offensive and defensive systems.
“We got eight [returners] on defense and [seven] on offense so we didn’t have to do a ton of install,” Lord said.
With some time being freed up, Lord said his team put an emphasis on special teams work during the first week — something he hopes will boost the Lions in pivotal moments this fall.
“Over the years I’ve won some games because of special teams,” Lord said.