Practice action heats up for local teams

CROWLEY – The weather may have cooled down a bit last week, but the action on the football field has definitely heated up.

With  teams hitting the field last week in shoulder pads and helmets through Wednesday and then full gear on Thursday, the hits and the pace  picked up significantly at area high schools.

“It was the first week in pads and we’re trying to stay with the theme of being more physical,” said Crowley High coach Josh Fontenot. “In order to do that, you  have to practice physically and we’re trying to accomplish that daily.”

The hits also continued across town at the Notre Dame camp.

“We put the pads on Monday and got after it,” said Notre Dame coach Lewis Cook. “We had a couple of pretty good days of hitting and I think we are progressing a little bit.

“For us, the full pads don’t really change a whole lot. We aren’t taking anybody to the ground hardly at all anyway. The big reason we put the pads on is just to get used to carrying them.”

Fortunately for both teams, the second week of practice was void of serious injuries.

“So far, nobody has been hurt,” said Fontenot. “That’s always something you worry about, especially with us and depth being an issue. But, we can’t worry about that; we have to go out there and do our thing and we will back off when the time is right.

“But right now, we’re still trying to be physical and prepare ourselves to play.”

For Notre Dame, the week was nearly injury free, but Thursday’s workout produced the first real  mishap of the preseason.

During drills, junior offensive lineman Reese Besse suffered an apparent knee injury.

“We had just watched film Wednesday and made the comment that Reese was looking really good,” said Cook. “And then yesterday, he kind of tweeked his knee a little bit so he will probably be out for a few days.

“But everybody else is still okay.”

Other than the one injury, both coaches have been pleased with the way the second week of camp has gone.

For Fontenot, the most pleasant surprise has been on the defensive side of the ball, an area where the Gents struggled at times during the 2012 season.

“Defensively, we’re moving around a lot faster and with a lot more purpose than we have in the past,” said Fontenot. “We’re very much more aggressive off the ball and our linebackers are a lot faster.

“It’s a lot harder for us offensively to block our defensive personnel. So that’s a good thing; that they are playing a lot more physical than what I thought we’d be at this point. We’re still not ready, we’re still not where we need to be all the time, but we’re playing more physical on defense.

Fontenot has also seen some good things out of his offense. That offense will be very young this year with two sophomores starting in the backfield  - quarterback Pate Broussard and running back Ty’Von Griffin. They will be joined by senior tailback Chris Lewis.

“Offensively, we show signs of being able to be very explosive and then at times, we show signs that we are not ready,” said Fontenot. “The potential is there and we have the ability to be very good on offense, but like the defense, we’re just not there yet. “

Fontenot said he is not particularly worried about the unit, though.

“We just need to work, scale back a little and get good at a few things and expand from there,” he said.

For Cook, the main concern heading into camp was in the offensive backfield where he must replace Luke Broussard and Austin Thibodeaux as well as Ross Cullen.

However, junior John Michael Besse, who saw significant time at running back last year, and sophomore Lance Bertrand have eased those concerns thus far.

“I kind of like the way the backs are coming along with John Michael and Lance,” said Cook. “We know what John Michael is capable of and Lance has done a good job this week for us.”

Cook has also seen some significant improvement in his receiving corps despite losing returning quarterback Brad Stoma’s top targets in Nick Benoit, Marcus Garrett and Brandon Leger.

“Receiver wise, Royce Zaunbrecher has made some big catches and Boedy Borill is coming along,” said Cook. “It’s good to see those guys stepping up a little bit.

“On defense, Hayden Bourgeois is making some big strides for us as a safety;  I think he has a chance to be a really good player and he’s another young guy that is stepping up.”

With all the pieces coming together, both teams will turn their focus to the week ahead and their annual scrimmages.

Crowley High will be at home on Friday when they play host to St. Louis at 5:30 p.m.

“You are at the point where you’ve practiced a lot, with the summer seven-on-seven practices and now camp, that it’s really time to start playing other people,” said Fontenot. “We’ll kind of treat this week as a game week. We’ll practice in full pads for three days and then we’ll back off on Thursday.

“Friday is still a practice, no more, no less. You get to gauge yourself on where you are, but we’re not really game planning or scheming. But we will treat it as how we treat a game week just to get the kids used to our gaming preparation.”

Notre Dame will be on the road for their annual scrimmage when they travel to Lafayette on Thursday to take on St. Thomas More.

“Now, you’re getting to the point where it is a good time to look forward to the scrimmage,” said Cook. “We’ve had two weeks against ourselves, so, now, we are anxious to see where we are. We’ll go in pads on Monday and Tuesday and then lighten up a little bit Wednesday just to give them a chance to get their legs under them just a little bit for the scrimmage.

“The scrimmage has a lot of what we do at practice involved in it. So, you don’t really lose a practice day. You get a little game situation and you get some form of practice. It’s still going to be a fundamental week and a week to get you ready for the season more so than it is just to highlight the scrimmage.”

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