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Football: Spring practice brings mixed agendas

Profile image for By Patrick Hayslip / Staff Writer
By Patrick Hayslip / Staff Writer

With the Guyer, Denton and Lake Dallas football teams beginning spring practice, evaluation and strength building are on their coaches’ minds.

The Class 4A state champion Wildcats have 11 returning starters, so head coach John Walsh will be assessing the incoming players.

“I’ve got 11 starters back and eight on defense, which is a good place to have a lot back,” Walsh said. “I know what those 11 guys can do and I’ve got two guys that have started 32 games already. I know what those guys can do. We’re looking for the sophomores and the JV guys that haven’t played varsity ball yet. We know our top 20 guys. We’re looking for the next 20 in spring ball.”

Guyer’s spring game is set for May 22. With its move to District 5-6A, Walsh said his team isn’t lacking motivation.

“The good thing about this year is we have the challenge of moving up to 6A,” Walsh said. “It happened to us four years ago. We handled it right and were in the title game, where we fell a little short. I think if our kids were still in the 5A, I’d have to coach a bit harder to get better, but knowing that the 6A playoff run is coming, we’ve got to get a lot better.”

The Denton Broncos are hitting the weight room harder than ever, and coach Kevin Atkinson is embracing spring practice for its physical nature — something of which he says his team can’t get enough.

“We’ve doubled our attendance in powerlifting,” Atkinson said. “That was very encouraging. Everybody has some type of formula for their speed and strength tests. Ours is 700 points or better. Last year we had 36 at 700 points. This year we had 64 kids at 700 points, so that’s exciting. The spring is the most physical time of the year because we’re only physical on Friday nights during the season.”

Losing three of his top four wide receivers and one running back, Atkinson is looking to fill holes at several positions.

“There’s going to be a lot of guys competing for three receiver spots,” Atknson said. “We’ve got Keyandre [Hearvey] returning, and we’ve had all of our five offensive linemen play before. We’re kind of deep at that position. I’m excited about Christian [Rodriguez] and seeing what he can do by himself [at quarterback]. We’re excited about Xavier [Scott] returning as a junior, but we need to find two more guys so there’ll be a duel at the running back position.”

Denton’s spring game will be held May 22 and a Friday Night Lights student appreciation scrimmage on Friday.

For coach Michael Young and the Lake Dallas Falcons, who will hold their spring game May 17, spring football is an opportunity to embrace the fundamentals of the game.

“To me, spring football is a couple things,” Young said. “First, it’s a time where you can be more physical in practice than we would during the year. We really work on the physical fundamentals like tackling, getting off blocks and blocking.

“It’s really good for the linemen. We have so much summer stuff you can do for quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs. You could go without spring football for them, but it’s more important for the linemen.”

Dagan Haehn will be a junior next season after an impressive first year as the Falcons’ quarterback. Young said this time of year allows him to prepare Haehn for the season.

“It’s critical for first-year quarterbacks, but for Dagan, he’s got a lot of experience already,” Young said. “Last year as a sophomore, we didn’t put a lot of things on his plate. We’re adding things for him about picking up protection so he can help our offensive line set protections when he sees blitzes coming. That’s something that will help him this fall.”

PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.