PEMBROKE — It didn’t take long for the clean workout clothes of the Purnell Swett football team to get dirty on Friday morning, as coach Mark Heil and the Rams got to work on the state’s first official day of football practice.
“Well, we’re not ready yet for the first scrimmage,” Heil said. “We need eight more day’s of practicing, but I’m pretty excited.”
The excitement was evident from the start of practice, as some of the senior leaders had the team whipped into a frenzy withing the first half hour.
“We have got some leaders and we have a team group of kids that have good camaraderie together,” Heil said. “Better than we’ve had in the last few years, and I think that’s going to really help us down the line.”
One of those leaders is senior wide receiver Josh Brooks, who saw the thrill in the faces of both new and returning players.
“(We) started off really pumped up. Everybody was really excited to be out there,” he said. “The tempo was really good today, we had fun doing it and we’re trying to get better.”
It is all leading towards preparation for the Rams first scrimmage against Fayetteville’s E.E. Smith on Aug. 12.
“The scrimmage is just to get better,” Brooks said. “The scrimmage will help you get game like situations, but we’re just trying to catch everybody up and get everybody up to speed at their positions.”
The Rams are looking to turn around what has been a dismal football program in the past few years, and they are off to a good start early, as the excitement is evident in the numbers.
“We have over 100 kids which is the largest turnout we’ve ever had. Our jayvee got close to 60,” Heil said.
There were a few bumps in the first day, as can be expected, but Heil said the coaches are going to change some things up to give practices a better flow. The coaches were trying to mix the varsity and jayvee squads together on Friday, and that was one of the biggest holdups.
“It’s too much standing around,” Heil said. “We’re going to go back to the way we used to practice the last couple of years until we get a little better oiled, and then we’re going to start combining them together. I think we’ll get more out of it eventually, but right now it’s just too much standing around.”
Brooks said it was good to have a full team on the field to run plays.
“It just gives you a better feel for how the game is going to be,” he said. “It’s more crowded, but that’s the way it’s going to be in the game and you have to prepare that way.”
For Heil, the signs all point in the right direction, and the few hiccups on the first day weren’t anywhere near enough to cause him concern.
“I think we’re ahead,” he said. “We’ve had a really good summer, so we’ve gotten a lot of things in and I like the hunger that we have on our defensive side of the ball. We’re not a bunch of superstars, but we have good attitudes and good team concepts. You never can tell, but right now I like the way things are going.”