South Summit won’t fill big shoes, but unproven team has a chance
Size may matter, but speed and intelligence will have to kill for South Summit’s football team to repeat last season’s success. This year’s team can check its largest player on the scale at 198 pounds.
Although the team is unlikely to shop at Big & Tall, they still have the merits to go home with some wins thanks to some solid team experience and marked quickness. This year’s team will return some five starters from last year, not bad considering that the core team last year consisted of only 14. Others on this year’s team received some limited playing time, bringing the total number of experienced players up a little higher.
Graduation did rob the team of some of its talent, including a strong linebacker core and a few linemen with a combined weight of nearly 500 pounds. Head coach Jerry Parker will have to find ways to replace that size. Some new skill may have to come from the sophomore class, a group that Parker hopes to flush out a little better as South Summit takes the field in one week.
A total of 62 players reported for the three Wildcat teams this year. That number should break down to around 20 players for varsity, junior varsity and the freshmen team, but movement between varsity and junior varsity could change those totals. Parker said he looks to play as many students as possible and will realign the teams to make sure that everyone gets on the field as much as possible. A few players are likely to have to go both ways.
Parker will also look to take advantage of his team’s strengths this year with a slightly modified playbook. The offense will still be option-intensive, but Parker will try and call a lot of short routes and quick passes that cut down on passing time and take advantage of experienced, quick receivers. It may demand some creativity in blocking schemes, but the Wildcats should have a long game as well and will use the long ball as a method of spreading the field.
The offensive burden will rest on the shoulders of Kendall Prescott, a relatively untested signal caller, who will aim to prove the strength of his arm and resilience over the course of the season. Prescott said he looks forward "to getting out there and proving a lot of people wrong," in regards to the team’s lackluster preseason rankings. Prescott should be aided by a competent receiver core led by senior Ryan Card. Another strong target could be junior Judd Rydalch, who will bring a basketball player’s height and hands to the tight end position.
Prescott and the rest of the offense will also be given an opportunity to prove their mettle mentally. Parker called them a bright bunch and noted that they have played together for nearly five years. He will bank on their high football IQ to aid them in making adjustments on the field, although Parker will make all the play calls from the sideline.
On the defensive end, the team will continue to run a fairly standard 4-4 look. Their calls are likely to include more blitzes and pressure packages designed to take focus off the line of scrimmage and put strain on the quarterback. Most importantly, defensive coach Aaron Tillett will have to plug the holes at linebacker in a hurry if they hope to continue last year’s tradition of limiting opponents to a narrow offensive output. A few of the players that could step up into those positions include Cooper Field, a returning starter, and Denver Hansen.
On both sides of the ball, getting appropriate personnel at the line will be a challenge. Without size to rely on, players will have to be tough and technically sound to control the line of scrimmage. Senior Lane Thompson, who makes up for his lack of size with outright tenacity, could exemplify an ethos the team will need to be successful this season. During a routine hitting drill, Thompson clearly brought an intensity and good "pop" to his hits that he will need if he intends to match up against players who outweigh him by some 120 pounds.
South Summit will open their season against Altamont at home on August 22 at 7 p.m. in 2A play.
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