Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Devils relish fresh approach

Leader sports editor

Energy is back up to an acceptable level at Jacksonville football practices. Monday’s practice was a particularly energetic one, especially when the team began working on stripping the football. A portable sound system has been installed on the filming deck of the practice field and music is pumped in during portions of practices, though not throughout them.

Players are responding well to the changes being implemented by first-year head coach Bob Hickingbotham, including the more physically rigorous regiment.

“It’s tiring,” said senior wide receiver Laderrious Perry. “You get real tired by the end of practice. But coach Hick does it to where you’re still having fun and you want to be out there.”

Perry is also a good illustration of how players feel about the new head coach, who was an assistant coach for several years before leaving for one year to coach at Atkins. Perry hasn’t played since his ninth-grade year, and has never played on the varsity squad. He thought about coming back last season until he heard that Hickingbotham wasn’t going to be on the staff.

“When coach Hick left I didn’t want to play anymore,” Perry said. “When he came back and talked to me, I knew I wanted to play again. We all want to play for coach Hick.”

One player who has been on the team since seventh grade is defensive back Kielen Richardson. He says the atmosphere at practices this season is unlike anything he’s experienced before.

“The tempo of practice has picked up a lot,” Richardson said. “It’s a much faster pace. We got music going out here. It’s just a better environment. Coach is doing things to get us all closer. I personally know a lot more of my teammates than I ever have. I honestly didn’t really know a lot of these guys. But we all know each other now.”

Hickingbotham started off on his first day preaching 48 minutes. That’s how many minutes are on the clock for a high-school game, and he wants his team to give everything it has that whole time. That’s almost all he preached the first few days, and while game planning and scheme implementation have progressed, 48 minutes is still a key mantra.

“He talks about it every practice,” Richardson said. “I don’t think we’re there yet with everybody, but it’s getting better. We’re getting closer.”

The Red Devils will play their annual Red-White game on Saturday at Jan Crow Stadium, beginning with the eighth-grade team starting at 5 p.m.

The freshman team will play at approximately 6 p.m. and the varsity squad will take the field to close the evening around 6:30.