Friday, August 06, 2010

SPORTS>>Badgers are tackling two-a-days head on

Leader sportswriter

Many high-school football coaches fight the dilemma of shrinking rosters once August two-a-days start.

So it was a bit of relief for Beebe coach John Shannon on Friday morning when he had a head count of 56.

The Badgers started quickly on their preparation for the season with true two-a-day workouts. The sessions start with weightlifting from 6-7 a.m., with an on-field defensive practice that runs from 7:30-9:30 a.m.

Afternoon practice runs from 1:30-3:30 p.m. with a focus on offense.

“We’re practicing twice a day and lifting weights before the first practice,” Shannon said. “We’re putting our kids through basically a three-a-days practice every day, and they’re working hard.”

Shannon has stressed the importance of hard work since taking over in 2007, and said the current group has bought in to his philosophy early on.

“I’m real pleased with the way the kids are working,” Shannon said. “It’s been extremely hot, and we haven’t missed a beat.

We’ve been going twice a day, and the kids have worked harder than probably they’ve ever worked.”

The first three days were pads-free as mandated by the Arkansas Activities Association, but the Badgers wasted little time once the pads went on with a full scrimmage Thursday afternoon.

“I thought it was one of the best scrimmages we’ve had since I’ve been here in three years,” Shannon said. “The kids are competing hard, and we’re excited about where we’re at right now.”

Shannon put an emphasis on workouts and training during the summer, which has resulted in the offensive and defensive schemes being fully up and running. Shannon is also pleased with senior leadership, something else he stresses.

“Our juniors from last year really started making that transition in the offseason,” Shannon said. “This summer, we also had a five-day team camp over at Conway, so they had a lot of opportunities to step into that leadership role. That kind of helps speed the process along.

“We feel like we’re further along than we’ve ever been this time of year simply because of the stuff we did this summer.”

The summer heat is an obvious hindrance, but Shannon said year-round workouts, along with a watchful eye from the team trainer, combats many of the issues related to overheating. The staff also has an unlimited supply of sports drinks available to the players.

“We had them all summer long,” Shannon said. “Football now is a year-round sport. It’s not like it was back when I was playing where you show up for the first day of two-a-days and you haven’t done anything all summer.

“They’ve been doing stuff all summer, so that helps tremendously. We have a full-time trainer, Justin Shipp, who does a great job with our kids. We weigh them before every practice, and then we weigh them after every practice. And if they don’t gain enough weight from one practice to the other, then we hold them out, because they’re at risk.”

Beebe is known for its Dead-T running attack, which Shannon said has already taken shape. Senior fullback Colby Taylor will be the workhorse runner, but senior quarterback Scot Gowen is not far behind in his scrambling abilities.

Shannon said Gowen was potentially the second best runner in a backfield that could include a rotation of up to four halfbacks, including Jay Holdway, Matt Pursell, Michael Kirby and Dalton Wallace.

“It’s shaping up pretty good,” Shannon said. “Colby Taylor is fullback this year, and he’s running better than I’ve ever seen him run right now. In the halfback spot, we’ve got about four kids that we feel comfortable enough to rotate in there and not miss a beat.”