By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
With less than two weeks left in the school year, most students have their minds on finals and what to do during summer vacation.
For student-athletes that play football, their thoughts are towards what is needed for the fall.
Muskogee began its spring drills on Monday and Roughers coach Josh Blankenship, in his third year at the helm, is looking for the players that are going to take the program away from a 1-8 season in 2012.
“We’re looking for the seniors on this team to be the leaders and for the most part, they are – big time,” Blankenship said. “There’s not a kid on this team that knows anything other than how we do things. The seniors need to show the younger kids what we expect from them.”
While the system development won’t begin until fall practice starts in August, what happens in the next nine days, plus during Spring Pride and 7-on-7 drills in June, can affect what a player’s standing when the season begins.
“Fundamentals are the key, blocking, tackling, what we do with the football.” Blankenship said. “We also are putting in our base install on offense and defense.”
The Hilldale Hornets will be participating in spring drills over the next two weeks. The Hornets are coming off the most successful season in school history, finishing with an 11-2 record and an appearance in the Class 3A quarterfinals before falling to eventual state champion Blanchard.
“We graduated 11 from last year’s team so we have some holes to fill,” said Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart. “It’s kind of like the year before when we graduated 17. We needed guys to step up and they did.”
Kirkhart is quick to point out he has depth as one of the strengths of the team, but there is always a need for more depth.
“Spring drills are a time to refresh everybody’s memory,” Kirkhart said. “We’re running the stuff we want to run during team camps and passing league and those kind of things.”
At Fort Gibson, who also began its spring drills on Monday, coach James Singleton is looking to reload a team that finished the season with a 10-2 record and a quarterfinal exit in the Class 4A playoffs to state runner-up Anadarko.
While the Tigers have plenty of voids to fill, losing seven starters from both offense and defense, Singleton and the rest of the coaches are using the spring time to get the guys used to playing football again.
“This was our first day in pads,” Singleton said. “We’ve got some voids we want to fill and we have a little idea of who will fill those needs. But spring drills give us a chance to get the cob webs out and really focus on the fundamentals.”
Singleton and his staff let the players work on the basics while allowing them to also learn the system.
“For the next nine days, we’ll work on our base offense and base defense,” Singleton said. “We’ll allow the offense to cram it down the defense’s throat and allow the defense to do the same, to try to stop us. We really want them to build the mindset on how we want to be.”
So over the next nine days, the bumps and bruises will begin to show, but so will the seedlings of the 2013 football season.
“The kids are eager and hungry,” Blankenship said. “This is a fun time of the year…a fresh start. They’re excited and ready to play football again. Everyone is still undefeated.”