August 6, 2013

More experience, leadership have Colts kicking

Chris Whitfield

VARNELL — The football program at Coahulla Creek High — much like the construction on the road in front of the school — has been a work in progress. Along the way there have been potholes and delays, but coach Jared Hamlin says the work continues, and he believes progress is being made.

The Colts faced junior varsity competition in 2011 during their first season. Last year, their first season against varsity competition was a rough one — a non-region win over Murray County in the season opener and a 26-14 Region 5-3A win over Sonoraville the lone victories in the 10-game schedule.

Despite the struggles, Hamlin sees the season as a success because of the experience it gave his team.

“We had a lot of opportunities to learn last season. The progress is learning from those mistakes,” he said. “Some of it was physical, and some of it was mental. I feel very, very confident about them being able to overcome those things now. They have had time thinking about the things they needed to do to get better and are putting that into practice. I am seeing that already, and that is one of the biggest things as far as our progress.”

The players also recognize the difference that a year against varsity competition has made.

“It just comes a lot more naturally now,” senior quarterback Blaine Williams said. “The first year, we were putting things together. Last year, we knew it, but doing it against better competition. Now we all know what everyone else is doing and we can work off of that and make adjustments. The system works, it just took us three years to really understand all of it.”

Hamlin has been pleased with this year’s seniors for showing they “are learning how to become leaders.”

Williams has become a much greater vocal presence this year, and he said he and the other members of his class are taking seriously the challenge of leadership given to them by the coaches.

“It is a complete 180-degree turnaround from last year,” Williams said. “This year, we are senior-heavy and it has finally set in. Last season we said we would be better next year a lot. Everybody realizes that there isn’t a next year (now). This is our last shot, and there are a lot of leaders on the team this year. If one guy is getting on someone, someone else rallies around that guy to get it fixed.”

Because they have a season of varsity experience, returning players believe they know what it will take to compete at a level strong enough for a winning season and a shot at the state playoffs.

“Our tempo has been a lot better, and our intensity has been a lot better,” Hamlin said. “Mentally, we are so much tougher than we were. We are overcoming adversities. Every one of our practices so far have really been good. We are fighting through things, and I am really excited about that because I think we had a tough time with that last year.”

Because the Colts had a small senior class — less than 10 players — on the 2012 team, there are plenty of starters returning. Maintaining depth behind those starters will be key to how far the Colts can go.

“We have most of our starters back on the defense and along the offensive line and in the backfield,” Hamlin said. “We are looking good in the secondary and getting really deep there and have some good battles. The other battle is going to be in the receiver corps and in the secondary. The battle, though, is for starting positions because we do have a lot of depth. That is a luxury we didn’t have last year.”

Cameron Burton and Erick Dominguez both returned to practice this past week after missing spring workouts because of injuries. Dominguez was the area’s leader in interceptions last season, with seven, and should be the centerpiece of the secondary from his safety position. Burton, who had shoulder surgery in the offseason, is competing with fellow senior Darius Miller for the top spot at running back.

“They are both looking really good, and they are both going to get a lot of playing time there,” Hamlin said. “It has been fun to watch because they have really been competing and pushing each other. They both give you something a little different.”