Wednesday, August 13, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Devils slow in midnight scrimmage

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville football team had its first Midnight Madness practice Saturday morning, starting workouts the first minute of the day and finishing about 1:45. Players were excited at the beginning of practice, but by the time they joined offense and defense on the field, the excitement had worn off.

“I think they were ready to go at the start,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “They had the wow factor going and were alert and ready. That lasted about 45 minutes and then it got a little sluggish.”

Hickingbotham didn’t limit his critique to any one unit or side of the ball. Offensive execution wasn’t sharp and defensive ball pursuit was lacking.

“We’re trying to get it across to them that everybody has to go hard every play,” Hickingbotham said. “When we watch film we’re making the point that we want to see 11 defenders in the shot around the ball, at least getting there, hustling to that ball on every play.”

The first-year head coach believes that establishing a ground game is crucial to a good offense, and saw that as the first point of emphasis after the first full-pad scrimmage.

“We didn’t look very good in the run game,” Hickingbotham said. “The good thing about it is we got it all on film. We looked at it, we identified the areas that need work, and now we’re addressing it.”

Another piece of good news is that the Red Devils’ total numbers are up to 58.

The bad news is there hasn’t been 100 percent participation since practice began last Monday. It’s not an uncommon occurrence at Jacksonville, but it’s something Hickingbotham wants to make much less common.

“They understand there are consequences and repercussions for not being here,” Hickingbotham said. “Or they’re going to understand it. We call them counseling sessions. All the captains are there and we all have a part in taking care of team issues. The captains understand that whatever the team policy is for breaking a team rule, theirs is doubled.

“They understood that when we voted on captains and they had the opportunity not to accept. They all accepted and we’re moving forward with these policies.”