The baseball and softball seasons have been fun, but it always feels like something is missing when football is out of the picture.
For the past five months and change, high-school football has been on a sabbatical, but now, it’s finally back. Well, for a few weeks, at least.
With the start of May, schools across the state are beginning their spring practice sessions.
As a player, I always hated spring practice. You put your body through the ringer and work your butt off for two to three weeks to prepare for a scrimmage game, and when it’s all over, you’re back to non-contact preparation for nearly three months.
To most players, it’s pointless, but to the coaches, spring practice is invaluable.
The spring will give them a glimpse of what they will have to work with in the fall. This will give them the entire summer to sort out strengths, weaknesses and come up with a plan on how to approach them.
After losing starters from the previous season, spring also allows coaches to get a look at some of the young and hungry players that are trying to break into the starting lineup. It all helps them at least have an idea of how their depth chart might look for the upcoming season.
The spring becomes even more vital when there’s a new coach in town. That’s the case for Guy Mistretta and Dutchtown.
Mistretta takes over the Griffin program after Benny Saia decided to resign last month. He was the only football coach Dutchtown ever had.
Mistretta knows all about winning. He has two state championship rings, but he now takes over a Dutchtown squad that was 3-7 this past season and missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
In addition to their recent struggles, the Griffins will also have to retool after losing top stars like cornerback Adam Sparks, running back Chuckie Davis and safety Cameron Crawford.
Dutchtown has to reassert itself in the parish pecking order after losing lopsided games to both East Ascension and St. Amant in 2016.
Speaking of East Ascension, second-year head coach Darnell Lee will get an idea of who replaces many of their top starters from last season.
There were seven Spartans that inked letters of intent on signing day. All of those players will be gone in 2017.
This list includes: Justin Harris, Adrian Ealy, Trevor Fleming, Demontrey Jacobs, Justin Daniels, Dylan Williams and Gage Bourgeois.
East Ascension will also lose a guy in Keenen Dunn that was like the Swiss Army Knife of their offense. He split time at quarterback, running back and receiver.
The bulk of the losses will be a defense. Lee, a former defensive coordinator, will have the spring to see who’s going to step up in their absence.
The quarterback position will also be a point of interest. Baseball star Cameron Schexnaildre was a first-year starter in 2016, and he had his share of growing pains.
St. Amant head coach David Oliver also has a lot to look at this spring as his team parts ways with arguably the best senior class he has had in his tenure with the Gators.
They lose defensive stalwarts like Garett Stephens, Patrick Wolfe, Cade Roddy and Khaj Washington.
They lose the team’s most versatile player in Briggs Bourgeois—a guy that was their leading receiver, an All-State kicker and a dangerous return man.
Most notably, they lose a two-year starter at quarterback in Hayden Mallory. Who will take his spot under center is the biggest storyline heading into spring for the Gators.
Down in 1A, Ascension Christian has the same big question.
Head coach Josh Puryear will head into spring looking for a new quarterback for the third straight season.
After 2015 starter Chris Middleton transferred to East Ascension, receiver Peyton Bahlinger transitioned to QB in 2016 and had a monster year as he helped lead the Lions to their best season in school history at 8-2.
Now, Bahlinger is gone, along with 1,000-yard receiver Ian Carter. Fortunately for Puryear and the Lions, most of their other starters will return in 2018.