Lakeside football coach Randy Hill makes it clear when expressing his frustrations about the 2005 season.
"I'm real disappointed in what we did last year," he said at a practice Aug. 7. "We were much better than a 3-7 team. With the seniors we had we should have produced more wins."
After winning two of three games to start the season, Lakeside spiraled downward to lose six of its last seven and finish sixth in the eight-team region.
With the 2005 season behind him, Hill said the poor showing won't be a complete loss. He's using it for motivational purposes. However, the motivation isn't just for his players.
"I'm hoping to use it as a motivation factor for the coaching staff too," Hill said. "With the seniors we had, there's no excuse for last year. Things had to change. We've changed a few things offensively, and we've changed a few things defensively. We're trying to go in the right direction."
Finding that right direction is up to the coaching staff and the few upperclassmen on the Lakeside roster. The sophomores and freshmen on the squad this season vastly outnumber the juniors and seniors.
The number of junior and senior skill players is even down.
"We're going to be a young team, but they're good young kids with athleticism," Hill said. "It looks good for the future, but we've got to get them to grow up quick for this year."
Fortunately for Lakeside, the sophomore class has already started the maturing process as a part of last year's successful junior varsity program. As freshmen, they won the Columbia County Junior Varsity Football County Cup by knocking off JV squads from Greenbrier, Evans and Harlem.
Hill said the talent within this year's sophomore class is good enough for a potentially big season.
"We're putting young kids on the field in offensive and defensive positions, but that sophomore class did so well in JV," he said. "They're a good bunch. In years past, there were kids who couldn't play football - they were dead weight out here. Even though our numbers have gotten so much better, we don't have dead weight anymore."
In the place of that dead weight is speed, Hill said. The senior and junior leadership that is present, though small in numbers, isn't short on quickness and talent. Leading the way is senior running back/defensive back John Arena and senior defensive end Jermel Bennett. The two players will attempt to replace last year's Travis Azar, Kyle Hill and Chris Drayton, Columbia County's top prospect in 2005 who will play for the University of Kentucky this fall.
"It's going to be real hard playing without them, but we've had some intense practices," Bennett said. "This has been the hardest we've worked since I've been here. I think we'll be a lot stronger this year."
Bennett said sophomore Chad Corbin has taken snaps at the quarterback position in preseason practices. Corbin, who saw time on the junior varsity squad last season, is one of 29 sophomores on the varsity roster this year.
Hill said the sophomores have more than just Arena and Bennett as leaders.
"We've got those two and Lance Driggers (linebacker) and Drew Hall (lineman) are two more good seniors," Hill said. "We have a handful of good seniors and a handful of juniors but you almost need more than a handful. The rest we'll fill in with sophomores."
Lakeside will kick off its 2006 season on the road at Aquinas on Sept. 1 before a home opener against rival Greenbrier one week later.
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