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Evaluation, repetition key to Princeton’s summer
Evaluating players is one of the less noticed and more difficult jobs of a high school football coach. Having three weeks in June to be on the field with those players is a big help, Princeton head coach Ted Spadaro said during Tuesday’s practice at Hunnicutt Stadium.
“It gives us three weeks extra to look at a kid, rather than August first,” Spadaro said. “At the end of all this, we can evaluate these kids a lot better because we got to see them for 15 days.”
“We don’t get all the kids here,” he said. “Some of them are on vacation, and I’m not going to take that away. We try to keep them here at least the first two weeks, but if it doesn’t [work out], then we just go from there.”
“It’s good that we have this, and I’m grateful that we have it. The WVSSAC [West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission] has done a great job by letting us have this three weeks. We’re very appreciative that [commission executive director] Gary Ray has allowed this to happen.”
Cory Blankenship, an all-conference first-team tackle, said on Tuesday, “You get back into the rhythm of football, get your stance back, just get used to wearing your helmet and stuff. … You can get some work done, for sure.”
He and his fellow linemen worked out under the scoreboard at the field, thumping inverted trash cans to finish off their “blocks,” time after time.
Blankenship said about the linemen’s work, “You’ve got effort going on, for sure. We’re always trying to work on getting your right block, getting your right assignment.”
“It’s mainly about repetition and making it second nature. Get the plays to where you don’t have to think about it. It just comes natural to you.”
“Our whole line is back,” he said. “That gives me a lot of optimism. We were young last year, didn’t know what we were doing, but now we’ve got a lot of experience on the line. … We’re goin’ after it.”
“We’ve got some young talent coming up, pretty good size. [We’ve] just got to get them into the system, let them learn what they’re doing. [We can] let them know how they can do stuff better, like footwork.”
“It’s good to get them in, nurture them, make them like they’re part of the family, so they don’t go anywhere. They want to be here. Even if they won’t get to play varsity, they’ll still want to be here and learn, and play JV.”
“It’s all about working for it, and learning it.”
Jared Skeens, a linebacker and another senior-to-be, said the June workout “gets us in condition, and gets us ready for August two-a-days. It’s hard. It’s very intense workouts.”
If it weren’t for June practices, Skeens said, “In August, we’d be dead tired, sweating, throwing up probably. But this workout here is as intense as August, so we’ll already be a step ahead.”
He said, “I’ve always had a good work ethic and always worked hard. I feel like it’s built me up. I’m ready for my senior year. I’m ready to have a good year.”
Punter Justice Shafer, who will be a junior, said about the newcomers on the team, “They’re getting it. They’re figuring it out. We were all freshmen at one point. But they’re getting it.”
For returnees, “It just makes us closer as a team. We can all help the young ones out, and work together, come together and try to get us a championship this year.”
Spadaro said, “They need to come up and learn our system, because the number of the gaps may be the same — even, right; odd, left — but it comes down to more than that, after that.”
June is not all going to be drills on the hot artificial turf in Princeton, though. Spadaro said the team will be on the road to South Charleston on Monday for a 7-on-7 workout, to be followed by “a couple of other places we want to go to.”
Spadaro said, “We don’t want to take up all of their summer. We have weightlifting in the evenings. So we’re going to take hold of this up until Wednesday and then we’ll get back into our weight program.
“Normally, my weight program would have started Monday, but I wanted to watch these kids work out for three days because I’ve been gone, and just go from there.”
His absence was due to working as an assistant coach in the North-South All-Star Game in Charleston last week.
He said about the work of his assistant coaches last week, “I think they’ve done great. … My coaches have certain names that they’ve brought up that have looked good at practice.”
Skeens said that while Spadaro was gone, “We just went along with the flow. Everything was fine, as if he was here. Now he’s here, and we’re still on track, we’re still going. It wasn’t like he wasn’t even gone, really.
“He’s just always there, pushing us, always being positive. He knows what he’s doing; he’s been here forever. And he’s a positive role model, on everybody.”
Shafer said, “It’s good. It’s nice to have Coach back. It’s always fun to have him around; he’s a pretty funny guy. He’s taught me everything I know about punting.”
He added, “He just knows more about football than just about anybody else on the field.”
In Spadaro’s absence, Shafer said the assistant coaches “really did a good job, from what I’ve seen. They stepped up and did a good job while he wasn’t here.”
Asked about the heat of the June workouts, Blankenship said, “It’s kind of difficult, but they don’t kill us too much in spring practice. They just try to get us learning stuff. If you love football, it’s going to get hot. You’ve got to get used to it.
“They give us a good amount of water breaks, whenever we need it.”
Shafer said, “It’s always hot in August. By the time the season starts, I’m ready.”
Blankenship said the Tigers “have big goals this year. We have a lot of talent, a lot of seniors, a lot of experience.” He is hoping to go “deep into the playoffs, for sure.”
By Tom Bone, Bluefield Daily Telegraph