Since taking over as Denton’s head football coach in February, Kevin Atkinson has slowly implemented changes in a program that’s been to the playoffs only once since 2001.
On Thursday morning, Atkinson received a set of new decals and an old, battered white helmet from assistant coach Justin Schuff, and the duo plastered the decals on the beaten headgear.
“Can we check it out?” offensive coordinator Tim Morrison said from the outskirts of Atkinson’s office.
“Not yet,” Atkinson said.
“C’mon, man,” Morrison said.
When Morrison saw the bold, purple “D” outlined in gold on both sides of the helmet, it was deemed perfect. The new helmets are just one of the changes Atkinson has implemented.
Thursday marked the end of Camp Bronco, a strength and conditioning camp open to Denton High athletes. About 130 boys participated in the six-week camp.
According to Atkinson, who was the head coach at Keller for the past 10 years, this year’s camp had a higher intensity than those in years past.
“Football-speaking, since February our kids have made a lot of strides,” Atkinson said. “We’re not where we need to be yet, but we’re definitely further than where we were.”
The camp focused on building the strength and speed of the athletes, with some players outside of football participating in the camp. Sport-specific drills and activities are prohibited by the University Interscholastic League.
As much as the camp was focused on building strength and teaching kids the proper way to work out, it also was an opportunity for Atkinson and his staff to bond with the team.
Upstairs at Jim Bateman Athletic Fieldhouse, the coaching staff dished out barbecue sandwiches to kids who previously were engrossed in a college football video game.
“You can usually tell how successful a team is by its offseason, or how successful the offseason is on the field,” Morrison said. “They correlate.”
Atkinson, Morrison and defensive coordinator Matt Lawrence helped blend the camp from previous camps the coaches had been a part of at their former schools. Morrison was at Plano East for three years, and Lawrence was at Carrollton Newman Smith for five years before joining the Broncos.
Morrison was in charge of the strength and conditioning program at Plano East. He said the camp’s participants have been eager to shed their shirts in the weight room — a sign that confidence is building.
“We’ve seen a lot of good results,” Morrison said. “Kids are getting stronger. They’re understanding the process it takes to get stronger.”
Senior defensive end Erik Dixon had heard of the football team’s woes upon moving to Denton this spring. Dixon previously attended Las Vegas Desert Oasis, and had no intentions of playing football until Atkinson urged him to play.
Dixon said the fieldhouse is almost incomparable to anything he’d seen, and that the attitude among the team is a positive one, with the feeling of a squad ready to make the playoffs.
“This is the best building,” Dixon said. “I love this weight room. It’s like my home. This whole summer we’ve been working hard. I feel like next year we can come back.”
Atkinson has ordered new jerseys that should arrive within a couple of weeks to match the team’s new helmets and new attitude.
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .