FAIRMONT — The numbers of players on the field for the Fairmont football team this summer have fluctuated, with several splitting time going to camps and practices with the basketball team — and that’s an matter that’s unsettling to coach Mark Heil.
“We’ve got some kids that are working and missing and it’s just correlating to getting better,” he said. “It’s a concern.”
Entering his second year as the head coach for the Golden Tornadoes, Heil has worked out the team with many of his top skill-position players out and the remainder have proven to be a hard-working bunch.
“They’re working hard,” Heil said of the ones at practice daily. “We are working better in the spring and in the summer better than we ever did last year.
“We’ve just got to keep working and getting better and get the pieces of the puzzle together.”
Some of the players that have split time with both teams are two-time Robeson County Heisman Julius Caulder at quarterback, all-county and all-conference wide receiver Jarique Moore and all-county safety Derrick Arnette who also sees time at wide receiver.
Even with major pieces missing, Heil feels at this point in the summer that the high-powered offense that returns a lot of talent from last season is progressing far beyond the defense. With a few players on the offensive side graduating, the bulk core of the unit is still intact with threats on the outside and one of the team’s top rushers, running back Halijah McLean, returning.
On defense, Fairmont is looking to fill in several missing pieces, with Robeson County defensive Player of the Year DeAngelo McMillian graduating and the loss of eight starters on that side of the ball. Arnette will be one of three starters coming back.
“Our offense is way ahead of our defense,” Heil said. “At linebacker, all three of them are new. The strong safety graduated, one of the corners graduated and three out of the four up front graduated. So we’ve got to replace them. Do we think there is some potential? Yes.”
Heil has seen sophomore defensive back/wide receiver Xavier Covington and junior outside linebacker Zach Ransom make strides in the summer to earn their spots to help with the team’s depth at those positions.
Now that most of the slate of basketball camps is mostly over with, Fairmont has two weeks of workouts left coming out of the July-4th break before full practice starts at the beginning of August. When the calendar flips to August, Heil is ready to get his players out on the field practicing what they haven’t been able to do in the spring and summer sessions, full-contact drills.
“We’ll do what we always do, hitting,” Heil said of the start of practice. “We’ve got to be able to hit and Aug. 6 we will be smacking. … We need to hitting body to body.
“Spring football, besides having team (workouts), if you don’t hit body to body it’s tough.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.