RED SPRINGS — Red Springs football coach Ron Cook has sent his team into its toughest offseason test during his tenure, and the third-year head coach is seeing senior accountability take the reins.
Behind the lead of senior captains Kenston Oxendine, Caleb Locklear, Marquis Ray, Todd Lockhart and Tony Colson, the Red Devils have turned more into the senior-driven team that Cook wants out of his program. Their leadership by example, as well as vocal leadership, have stood out to him so far this summer.
“Actually, I think I have the best group of seniors that we’ve had so far,” Cook said. “Part of that is because this is the third year here with me, being in the system and the culture change we’ve been instilling here.”
Cook’s more rigorous summer workout plan has come with the idea of giving his team more mental toughness to bank on come this fall. And through the weightlifting and conditioning, followed by instructional work on the field, the seniors have been there to be an extension of the coaching staff with the underclassmen.
“Some guys don’t always make their times, but what we focus on there is making sure you finish,” Cook said. “That’s just the main thing, being able to push through the pain when you’re sore and hot. It’s just building mental toughness.
“That’s something you can look back to or reach down and remember when you’re in the fourth quarter of a game, or overtime like we were last year (in the state playoffs), and have that to reference to.”
Now being with the senior class for most of their high school careers, Cook said he feels that a main reason this class of seniors are being more accountable than in the previous two seasons is because they are more comfortable with the system and are buying in better than previous seniors classes.
“I think they’re really getting this is that I coach to everybody, but I tell the seniors that sooner or later it’s their team,” he said.
Along with Lockhart at quarterback, Red Springs also will lean on the athleticism of senior Eric Graham playing multiple positions on both sides of the ball. Both were named all-county and all-conference last season.
The Red Devils have averaged around 43 athletes at each workout this summer and have seen positives going forward with the entrance of a freshman class that Cook said is loaded with potential.
“This is probably the best freshman class we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of talent and they’re working really hard.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.