Henry County High School head coach James Counce Jr. believes his team is making steady strides in preparing for the 2019 season opener that’s set for Aug. 23 against Haywood County at Brownsville.
The Patriots have played two scrimmages, a 21-21 tie with Milan on Aug. 2 and a 36-10 loss at Montgomery Bell Academy on Friday. Counce said there was marked improvement from one scrimmage to the other.
“We certainly had less offensive penalties at MBA than the first scrimmage with Milan. I’ve been pleased that we appear to be in reasonably good shape physically, we are playing physical and we are learning. We still have to block better up front. We still have some guys blocking the wrong people and not getting footwork right but we are getting there. We knew that was a place we were going to have to spend time shoring up. We have to get better in the secondary but we are holding our own on the defensive front pretty well,” Counce said.
Look at the areas that Counce said the Patriots need to improve and you’ll see that all isn’t lost in any of these spots. The offensive line has blocked well enough for running backs Joseph Travis and Donte Davis to have good success at times in both scrimmages. The pass blocking was good enough that freshman quarterback Ryan Damron completed back-to-back passes in an end-of-half drive at MBA with the second completion being a 15-yard touchdown strike to junior receiver Jawon Odoms.
“That was a really good throw to Jawon’s back shoulder. Jawon made a good catch to take the ball away from a defender and looked really athletic walking a tightrope to stay off the sideline and get into the end zone. Obviously, we are going to have to get the ball to him more when the season starts,” said Counce.
He said Damron made a couple of freshman-type mistakes but the Patriots’ offensive staff was pleased that he and the team’s other quarterbacks got the chance to work against a strong program like MBA at this point in the preseason. He said it will only help them get better quicker.
Other than a couple of instances where junior varsity players allowed receivers to get behind them, the Patriots had defenders everywhere MBA threw the football in Friday’s scrimmage. The Big Red still completed some balls for good gains that set up touchdowns.
“On some of those throws, we had guys there and the MBA guys got hands on their shoulders and made catches over them. We have to learn to grab a wrist or an arm or find a way to knock that football loose in those situations. It is good we got in position, now we have to make a play on that football. It is so hard to create those exact situations in practice. We are going to study the game film and try to learn from it,” said Counce.
Counce is very happy that neither Milan nor MBA had much success running the football. He wants the defensive front to continue to play that way.
He is concerned that the rising heat index over the course of this week will keep the Patriots off the practice field as they prepare for their performance in Friday’s McDonald’s Football Challenge jamboree at Patriot Stadium. He said the team could be forced to do what work they can in the gymnasium or watch film and lift weights in the fieldhouse if the heat index is too high.
There has been a change in the schedule of games for Friday’s jamboree. It still begins at 6 p.m. with West Carroll and Stewart County playing the first two quarters. Murray will take on Dresden at 7 p.m. with Jackson North Side now battling with Paducah Tilghman at 8 p.m. Tilghman will stay on the field to meet the Patriots in the final two quarters starting at 9 p.m.
Tickets for the McDonald’s Football Challenge cost $7 at the gate. The proceeds are divided among the schools participating in the event.
“We hope everyone realizes football season is here. This is our last warm-up before the season begins next week. I can’t believe we are this far along. It seems like July really blew right past us. But it’s time to get going and we are excited about starting the season. We hope everyone is excited about football beginning and will want to come out Friday to support all the teams in the jamboree,” said Counce.