This weekly feature offers a few notes from The Robesonian sports staff on the state of various Robeson County high school football teams as they prepare for their season openers on August 21. Look for more updates next week. A special section previewing the season for all teams is planned for August 20.
New coach Mark Heil said Thursday that he still doesn’t know all the players names. But he does know their nicknames.
He expects to put a much greater overall emphasis on discipline than the team has been used to. He also expects to diversify the team’s offense, going to the air less frequently.
“I’m old-fashioned,” he said, preferring the “three yards, a cloud of dust and play good defense” strategy.
At the same time, his team has a talented quarterback so the passing game won’t disappear. But, Heil said, “We are going to run the ball.”
Coach Mike Setzer said Friday afternoon that the recent heavy rains didn’t affect their workouts, which have been in the mornings, too badly, though they did have to move inside Friday morning.
“I feel like we’ve had really good practices,” Setzer said. “We’re ahead of the curve from last year.”
Setzer says he’s been especially impressed by what he’s seen from Braylan Grice, a 13-year-old freshman who will start at quarterback for the Pirates.
Coach Ron Cook describes a focus on changing the team’s culture with a “chain-link” mentality. “One person not doing what they’re supposed to do is our weakest link,” he said Thursday. He describes a “complete 180” on conditioning with guys getting “a lot stronger than last year.”
Cook says special teams will continue to be one his top priorities though he’s still working on how the team will handle kickoff duties.
The South Robeson High School football team had an energetic practice on Thursday morning, as jayvee and varsity players worked together.
Fabian Hunt took most of the snaps under center, with Darrius Brown spending most of his time as the top tailback.
It’s a young group, but the Mustangs have some size and speed to work with. Senior Melquan Ocean-Dinnerson is expected to be a team leader this season on both sides of the ball, but in particularly as a defensive back.
Coach Trey Sasser said Thursday the team is showing improvement with greater depth on its offensive line, including better size and skill.
He’s pleased that his quarterback Cody McKenna, a senior, can finish his sentences and seems to know what he’s going to call. This is McKenna’s third year on the varsity and second as a starter. “There are a lot of nuances we have with our no-huddle offense,” Sasser explained Friday, saying McKenna’s gotten the hang of all the signals and other communication tricks.
The team had to go into the gym to practice on Thursday. “That’s something we expect when we practice in the afternoon,” Sasser said. “It’s usually when a lot storms pop up.”