We Have Contact: Wildcats’ first full-pad practice cut short by rain, but coach is upbeat by what he sees

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY, News-Telegram Sports Editor

Aug. 8, 2008 - The Sulphur Springs Wildcats' final practice of the week was interrupted by rain and ended a little bit early. But, it was enough to leave head coach Greg Owens upbeat.

In their first practice in full pads, the Wildcats went through about 30 minutes of a full contact team scrimmage in which the offense struck early, but the defense made plays after that.

A much-needed thunderstorm interrupted practice at about 8 a.m., sending the team into the weight room, where they went over special teams assignments. They re-emerged a little after 9 a.m., got loosened back up, then were through before 10.

It wrapped up a week that Owens said was especially smooth in terms of player retention and participation. Today, the players were getting adjusted to wearing pads for the first time in nine months.

"It was a good week. The first day of pads, it's always sluggish, and I think the guys are a little frustrated with some of that. They got a little aggression out of them anyway," Owens said.

"It showed us what we need to work on, and there were some bright spots in there, too. We didn't expect to be perfect, but I think some of them wanted more. We saw some good things, both offensively and defensively. It's been a real good week."

In the scrimmage, the starting varsity squad struck quickly when senior running back Ryan Young went about 50 yards for a touchdown on the drive's third play. Young, an Honorable Mention All-State transfer from Alba-Golden, was clearly one of the offensive bright spots in the intrasquad scrimmage.

He clocked the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.38 seconds) on the team this summer, and he showed the instincts to break tackles during the scrimmage.

However, the second time the starting squads went against each other, the defense held on sacks by Kedrick Dial and Tyler Higginbotham. That stalled a promising drive fueled by a long catch by wide receiver Shane McQueen from quarterback Tyrik Rollison.

In the third series between the starting offense and defense, a sack by Jayden Wallace and Jacko Spataro ended the scrimmage.

Because of the steady rain, the scrimmage was not videotaped, but Owens said next week's practices will be taped, which allows coaches to better evaluate the players.

"Reality kind of sets in when you put on pads. You find out who can play, and that kid who looked real slow may perk up a little bit and play faster because he's more aggressive," Owens explained. "Next week, we should be able to get us on film and evaluate a little more and make some position moves.

"Next week, we'll start to get more physical," he added. "We'll do more inside hull, more run stuff, more isolation things. They were so excited, we wanted to get them out here in some team stuff and let them get after it a little bit today."

The Wildcats will get the weekend off, then report back at 7 a.m. on Monday. They will continue to practice each morning next week, culminated by picture day on Friday and their first scrimmage against Greenville on Saturday morning at Gerald Prim Stadium.

The varsity scrimmage will begin at 8 a.m., with the JV and freshmen to start at about 10:30 a.m.

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