By John Stepp For The Times-Tribune
The North Laurel Jaguars had a disappointing football season in 2011, winning just three games, and missing the playoffs. With several starters returning, the Jaguars are looking to bounce back in 2012, but Larkey says his team needs improvement in one key area: toughness.
Despite garnering only three wins last season, the Jaguars were fairly competitive in several of their games. Larkey feels with a tougher, more determined team, North Laurel could have doubled their wins in 2011.
“If we take away some of our plays last year, we could have won seven games instead of three, but that’s not the way the ball bounced,” said Larkey. “I think that was partly because we were young, but it was also because the other team wanted it more sometimes. We weren’t as determined or as tough as we needed to be, at times, last year.”
The Jaguars have taken a step in the right direction this offseason with a successful weight lifting and condition regimen. North Laurel competed in two weight lifting competitions this winter, finishing second in both, and has had as many as 60-plus players out throughout the summer.
“Right now, we’re working on lifting and getting in shape. Of course, we’re working on our offense and defense, but we want to see these kids get faster and stronger,” said Larkey. “Every other team we play is going to be faster and stronger than last season, so we have to make sure we’re getting better each day.”
Numbers are not a concern for the Jaguars, but lack of experience may be, as only seven of the 60-plus players are returning seniors. With a lack of leadership, and several underclassmen starters, Larkey said it is very important that his kids continue to work hard and focus on getting better.
“Football is a hard sport. We want to keep every kid that has come out to play for us this season, but we also want them to know that they have their work cut out for them,” said Larkey. “I think they know what it’s going to take to win more games. We are very young, and have a long way to go, but these kids have worked hard and will continue to work hard to get there.”
To lead his team this season, Larkey will rely on the one-two combo in the backfield in quarterback Michael Nelson and running back Gabe Blair. Both players are returning starters, and are expected to carry the load for the Jaguars, along with returning offensive lineman Hunter Gilpin who stands at 6’5, 270.
“Michael Nelson was good for us last year at quarterback, and was a two-way starter. I expect a lot from him this season, as he’s really gotten faster and should be a better player. Gabe (Blair) has really bulked up and gotten faster, as well,” said Larkey. “We also have a good lineman coming back for us in Hunter Gilpin. He’s a very big strong kid.”
With their season opener just over a month away, Larkey is pleased with where his team is at, at this point in the summer.
“Our kids have really worked hard. They want to win, and know what it takes to get there,” said Larkey. “Now, we just have to keep getting better every day, and put it all together when the season begins.”
By John Stepp For The Times-Tribune
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