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Last season, Crawford County had just three dressed players on the bench to start the season against North Harrison. Fans can expect to see almost 10 times that number when the Wolfpack visit the Cougars on Aug. 23. File photo by Wade Bell

Crawford eager as numbers greatly rise


August 14, 2013
The last two years the Crawford County High School football program has been just fortunate enough to put a full team on the field. Last year for their opener against North Harrison, the Wolfpack had just three players on the bench as substitutes. It was a situation that made it tough for both the coaching staff and the players, some small freshmen going up against juniors and seniors with a multitude of experience.

"They should have never thought of being on a varsity football field, and they would start for us," Crawford County coach Alan Hess said on Friday. "Any coach we played knew it was going to be a lineup and hit us in the mouth because we weren't going to be big enough to take it. We struggled."

Fast forward to this year and you'll see a completely different team of almost 40 players on the practice field two weeks before the season starts. The Wolfpack have a new attitude going into the season and are eager to get things going.

"We're somewhere near mid- to upper-40s," Hess said. "Yesterday, we dressed 38 or 39 and we had five or six kids on the sidelines without physicals. We should have a couple more of those today, so we're close to that 40 mark. I think that's a real good number for a (Class) 2A program. Every year you can have some success."

"We're ahead this year of what we were last year or the year before," he said. "I don't doubt that for a second. We're more aggressive. The morale of things is just, everybody is excited. You hear the hits at practice and the kids are hooting and hollering and the coaches are upbeat. I haven't talked for three days because I've been go, go, go, go, go."

With a lot of inexperienced players joining the team, Hess and his coaching staff have had to teach the basics, very basics, of the game.

"How to put pads in," Hess said. "How a chin strap goes on. How to take a mouthpiece home and mold it. We've had some laughs. We've had some kids putting hip pads where knee pads go and we didn't catch it till they were on the practice field. We've had some kids whose helmets have fallen off because they didn't understand the chin strap could be adjusted and it's off to one side or the other.

"Square one. We're not going to be real exotic or real fancy. We've got some ball players that we need to find a way to get the ball in their hands, but we're not going to go and scrap together something that we think is going to beat the pants off of everybody. It's still the same game it was 70 years ago. You've got to block. You've got to tackle. You've got to execute. You've got to catch the ball when you throw the ball. You've got to try to make people miss when you're running the ball. Whether you've got 40 kids or 15 kids, if you can do that successfully, you've got a chance."

While the team may have some inexperience, the Wolfpack do have several true athletes returning to counter the balance, some of those from last season's basketball team. Hess said his team has some speed and quickness that could be a problem for some of its opponents.

"It's exciting to see some of the kids that you've looked at in the last couple of years and thought in the back of your mind and said, 'If that kid would give it a shot, I think he would be real good.' 'If we got that kid, maybe we could get this kid.' And we've got some of those speedsters who can run and give you a different dynamic, a little bit more athleticism, where the game kind of comes to them. Don't screw those guys up too much. Let them play. Teach them a little bit and be athletic and let them play. We've got some of those this year."

The team will have nine seniors, but some of those will come in with less experience than last year's freshmen players. Last year's freshmen, however, have a year of varsity experience under their belts, which can be a plus.

"Obviously, you look to your seniors for that leadership, but I don't think leadership necessarily comes with age," Hess said. "It comes through your actions, showing up for practice and in the weight room every day. Going hard every breath and not taking plays off. When we're running at the end of the day, you're running as hard as you can and not jogging. You're enthusiastic. We've seen some of that from these new kids. We've seen some positive, upbeat attitudes."

On Friday, the Wolfpack will have their first scrimmage against somebody not wearing some other color besides orange or white, the Corydon Central Panthers. For a lot of veteran teams, the scrimmage may not be that important, but it's quite the opposite for this year's Wolfpack, who need to find out exactly where they're at talent wise before their first actual game at North Harrison on Aug. 23.

"We'll see if the technique we've been putting in for a couple of weeks (is working)," the Crawford County coach said. "Some of these kids have only got two or three days of techniques, so it's raw. You can't manipulate in an individual drill to a live game situation. Where are we strong at? Where do we need to work on our weaknesses? If we see something in a game that's better than we thought, or is it worse?"

"We'll be well organized and ready to go and, hopefully, see some of the things from these kids we think will help us," he said, "and see some of those things develop on the field. We're excited and looking forward to it."

Hess said he has one expectation for his team this year and that is to see improvement. As the team improves, so will its record.

"I want to see us starting building something," he said. "We said when we first got here, that we've got to keep our freshmen and sophomores together, in the weight room together, and build. We have got to build from day one through that last week when we play (Eastern) Pekin's JV team. That will be the last JV game before we get in the playoffs. Just to see us get better every week, see our young kids start to pick up what it is we want them to do offensively and defensively. We've got two or three quarterbacks who didn't play last year that can develop and pick up the offense and be a leader in that huddle."

"We've got 45 kids, nine seniors, 18 eighth-graders," he said. "We could be around 50 next year. With most of them in the weight room, they don't have to be worried about not lifting during other sports season. So, we'll continue to develop physically. The ball starts rolling. The snowball just starts getting bigger going down the hill. Let's pack it together and roll it and see what happens. We're looking forward to it."

"We have smiled more in the last two or three days than we have in the last two years," Hess said. "It's great. It's so exciting."

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