By Chris Parsons
LONDON — By the time sweltering midday temperatures started to creep up on the Tri-County, the North Laurel Jaguars football team was halfway through the day’s practice session.
Despite a grueling first two days of practice to start the week, Jaguars head coach Chris Larkey seemed hell-bent on getting his players into shape before the actual football activities began.
The team practiced in groups and as the backs came out for their turn on the track, assistant coaches spouted off what the players could expect (10 100-yard runs, six 50-yard runs and 10 20-yard sprints), all before the actual practice began.
“It’s exciting to get the kids back in here, but there’s work to do,” Larkey said. “We don’t focus too much on getting the kids in shape before they come in here at this point, because they’ve got that two weeks off during the dead period.
“Kids these days aren’t going to do anything except maybe mow the grass, and that’s only if their parents make them get out and do it,” he added. “We get them in here and get them used to running and get them close to being back in shape and that’s what we do the first few days.”
Larkey and the Jaguars are in a different position coming into the season as opposed to the past few seasons. After finishing the 2012 season with a 6-4 regular season mark before falling to Whitley County (40-20) in the first round the playoffs, expectations are high.
Factor in Michael Nelson (1,250 yards rushing) and Gabe Blair (1,058 yards), who both finished the season in the top 15 in the state in Class 5A’s rushing leaders and Larkey said he knows if the Jaguars are going to reach their potential, the work starts with these early practices where players have to withstand the extreme conditions.
“We’ve got a good group of kids, our guys are working hard and everybody had big expectations out of this team,” Larkey said. “You can take those expectations though, and write them down on a piece of paper and they aren’t any good to us, because you can throw that paper in the garbage.
“It comes down to how the kids are going to respond on Friday night and what they’re able to do on the football field,” he added. “That’s why we’re here now trying to get them physically in shape and try to make them a little bit tougher mentally.”
Though it’s still early as far as the practice season goes, Larkey said he feels like his team has a little more confidence than it had at this point last year. Having lost only a handful of seniors from a team that both made the playoffs and finished the season with a winning record for the first time since 2004 means Larkey’s squad will be focused on getting better as opposed to learning the basics over the next few weeks.
“We have a lot of our kids back this year, which is always a good thing,” Larkey said. “From a coaching aspect what that means is a lot of our guys come in knowing their job and what to do, which is a lot better than having to start from scratch and teach them the basics.
“Hopefully the experience will pay off down the road, but for now we have to get these guys in shape,” he added.
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