By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
WHITLEY COUNTY — With the mandatory dead period officially underway for the Whitley County Colonels football team, head coach Jim Black said he’s pleased with the progress his squad made this summer.
“For the most part we’ve had really good attendance all summer long from our kids,” he said. “It’s been a real pleasure working with the kids we’ve had out.
“With the exception of the last two or three days, we’ve had an average of about 35-40 kids,” he added. “We haven’t had under 30 at any time and we’ve had around 50 on different occasions, so it’s really encouraging to see that many kids out here in the summer heat.”
While most teams have focused on football drills alone, Black said he and his staff have tried to transform practices into something the kids can enjoy from time to time. Breaking away from football is an opportunity to see how players can work together and get along as teammates in something other than a football setting as well.
“We’ve had days where we just went out and played different things from kickball and volleyball to anything that will just allow the kids to change gears,” Black said. “As far as working, we’ve really spent a lot more time in the weight room in an effort to get stronger as a team overall.
“We’ve got a really good group of kids that we’ve had out so far and they’ve worked really hard doing whatever we asked them to do,” he added. “This group has been a lot of fun and they’ve really shown that they have a strong work ethic while they’ve been here.”
The Colonels finished the 2012 season at 7-5 before being eliminated by Pulaski County in the second round of the playoffs. Black and company rattled off four straight wins at one point, with wins over Clay County, Lynn Camp, Somerset and Perry Central. If not for a seven-point loss to Bell County in week three, the Colonels would have started the season with a 6-1 mark.
Considering the success his team saw last season, Black said he expects his team to come in to practice in August hungrier than they have been in recent seasons.
“I think the guys got a taste of what they can do when they work hard during the week and come out and play hard on Friday night,” Black said. “We did some things last season that really set the tone for what we could expect out of our underclassmen as their careers progress and we’ll get to see that this season hopefully.”
According to the KHSAA website, the Colonels will open play on the road against Madison Southern before a pair of home games against Rockcastle County and Clay County. Black’s squad will also travel to Knox Central midway through the season and welcome Harlan County to town on Oct. 18.
Black said he hopes that the progress made this summer as well as the experience from last season are a few things that he hopes will pay off when regular season get underway.
“We’ve got some kids that are going to have to step up into leadership roles where they ordinarily wouldn’t have to,” Black said. “Austin Ysidro isn’t a senior, but he’s going to have to show some leadership qualities at the quarterback position.
“Zack Mills is only going to be a sophomore, but he showed some abilities last season that will allow him to be a leader this coming year,” he added.