A typical 10-day spring football practice features upperclassmen helping the younger guys get to know their surroundings.
Saddled with the unique distinction of starting a new football team at Augusta Prep, the Cavaliers' coaching staff has flipped the usual script.
Because Augusta Prep's middle school squad started play a year before its high school team, the younger players know more about what to expect. So, it's the group of rising freshmen who are providing the early leadership in preparation for the upcoming inaugural high school season.
"The younger kids have actually set the example for how we do things," head coach Harry Bacheller said. "We only had four eighth-graders last year, so it's a small group. But they've been helpful to me so far."
Bacheller said the new team's effort and attention to detail surpassed his expectations during spring practice, which concluded Friday. Of course, the coaches had to curb their expectations a bit, considering that many of those who came out never have played school football. Some, according to Bacheller, have not played any sport at Augusta Prep.
"But that's the great thing about football," he said. "You don't have to be a great athlete or even a good athlete to contribute to a football team. You can always find a way to contribute."
The coaching staff has not seen most of the players, so the names of those who have exceeded expectations are not familiar. However, "every day we're commenting positives about different kids."
Bacheller identified Nate Pylant and Nolan Brandon as two of the rising freshmen whose work ethic and leadership role have stood out.
Starting from the ground up isn't easy, Bacheller says. But he noted that it's been smoother because of the help of his assistant coaches.
"It's a lot more work, more behind the scenes than people know," Bacheller said. "We've got a long way to go, but people around here have been nothing but supportive.
"Each day, we have another new kid coming out. I think they realize they want to be a part of something special."
Lions showing versatility
Augusta Christian's Keith Walton trusts the players in his defensive secondary.
That trust is inherent in the change he made prior to last season from what was primarily a man-to-man defense to a read-2 scheme.
"Defensively, everything was changed. It's a big adjustment for our kids," said Walton, who enters his second season as the Lions' head football coach.
"In this system, we wait until you run your route. Then, we go into coverage based on what you run."
With a full season in the new system under their belts, the players had a whole new attitude for this year's spring practice.
The transition has come full circle.
"With their effort, the kids just picked up right where we left off last season," Walton said. "We didn't have to go back to square one teaching. Instead of starting off at Level 1, we started at Level 3."
The Lions lost a lot of senior leadership, Walton said. That included leading receiver Evan Wells; starting tailback and middle linebacker Cole Turner; and kick returner, punt returner and safety Caleb Harmon.
Quarterback Tyler Roberson will attempt to shoulder the leadership responsibility. Roberson started under center last season as a freshman, and his coach believes a year has made all the difference.
"You can tell his maturity and his experience last year," Walton said. "He came out this spring and took command over the huddle. He had a better command over the offense."
The Lions have run a veer running attack in the past. They will not abandon that, Walton said, but they will add more of a passing presence that will include Matt Rogers, who has moved from tailback to flanker.
The option to go to the passing or running game gives the Lions flexibility.
"To our opponents, it's a different wrinkle. The way we go, if throwing the ball is what will win us the game, we can do that. If running the ball is what we need to do, we can do that," Walton said.
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