|THE FINAL WORD: THOUGHTS ON FOOTBALL AND SOCCER SCRIMMAGES (2017-08-27)
I had a busy Saturday considering the regular season hasn’t even begun for the majority of high school sports.
I kicked off the day at S-VE High School for the SVEC scrimmage with Delhi and Thomas A. Edison.
Despite considerable losses from last year’s Section IV runner-up squad, the Eagles showed considerable promise, especially on offense. They ran the ball pretty well effectively, both between the tackles, and to the perimeter, but did put the ball on the ground a few times.
The Eagles also threw the ball well, and had a pair of receivers come up with acrobatic catches.
Defensively, the Eagles handled Edison quite well, but had some difficulties against a much bigger Delhi offensive line and 240-pound (maybe bigger) fullback.
It’s difficult to gauge anything from a scrimmage because few teams ever show much of their playbook, and some coaches like to get longer looks at their reserves than others, but what I saw from the Eagles was a pleasant surprise, considering the toll graduation took on last year’s team.
(On an aside, the next time the SVEC football team does a chicken barbecue, shell out the money. The chicken was fantastic, and the macaroni salad was out of this world.)
I finished off the day at U-E’s Ty Cobb Stadium watching Waverly scrimmage against Union-Endicott.
The Wolverines played fairly well against the Tigers. They were able to run the ball effectively with a number of backs, including freshman David Hallett between the tackles and senior Chandler Whitmarsh to the perimeter.
The passing game was a bit shaky, but everyone is aware of how dangerous they can.
I know Jason Miller didn’t show much of his playbook, but his veteran line created running lanes for their backs, and gave junior QB Gavin Judson time to throw the ball. If they stay healthy and continue to do that, the Wolverines could score a lot of points this season.
Defensively, the Wolverines were laying some serious lumber on the Tigers, led by Mike Shaffer, who had a pair of hits that echoed throughout the stadium.
The best player on the field Saturday, however, was U-E QB Devon Hogan, who broke free on a pair of long TD runs on the option keeper, and also threw the ball well.
Waverly plays a rugged schedule again this year, but I saw enough to think they’ll be competitive in 2017.
In between the football, I tossed in a visit to Athens’ Alumni Stadium to watch a bit of the Athens girls soccer scrimmage against Horseheads.
In the time I was there, juniors Ari Gambrell and Rachel Hutchison each scored goals — less than a minute apart, but the two players who caught my eye were freshman Emma Roe and Hannah Blackman.
Both freshmen — seasoned travel players — were very physical and seemed right at home on the varsity playing field.
The only knock I’ve ever had with the Lady Wildcats is they lacked the physicality to play against the better teams in the southern part of District 4. These two freshmen, along with sophomore Emma Adams, and senior Emily Lunger aren’t afraid to mix it up.
I think you’ll see a much more physical and aggressive Athens team this year under second-year coach Rich Pitts.
Saturday’s soccer scrimmage wasn’t the first for me this preseason.
Wednesday, I watched a very young Tioga girls team — six freshmen, three sophomores, and an 8th-grader on the 16-player roster — against NEB.
The Lady Tigers will take some lumps this season, but Destini Sweet and Madison Howey lead a strong and athletic freshmen class, and 8th-grader Kylie Zimmerman is another building block for the future.
With several players ineligible due to not having enough practices, Tioga played the majority of the NEB scrimmage with just 10 players and held its own. After a minor injury early in the second half, the Lady Tigers played two players down, and continued to play hard.
There will be some ups-and-downs in 2017, but the future is certainly bright for the program.
On Friday, I had my first look at the SVEC Lady Eagles, and can see why they are the defending IAC South Small School champ.
Well-coached and athletic, the Lady Eagles moved the ball well and kept good spacing on the field. They were also missing one of their key players, so I’m looking forward to seeing them at full strength.
I expect SVEC to be the team to beat again in the Small School South, but it will be interesting to see how they match up against the rest of the IAC elite.
We’ll find out quickly as they get tested immediately out of the gate with their first two games against Marathon and Notre Dame.
The Final Word returns Tuesday.
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, and get out to a game Monday!
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