Football preview schedule
Saturday: South Robeson
Tuesday: St. Pauls
Today: Red Springs
Thursday: Purnell Swett
RED SPRINGS — There are plenty of reasons to doubt the Red Springs football team and Ron Cook knows that.
By the time the Red Devils hit the field for their first game, the team’s new coach will have held his position for less than two months, during which he had to teach the team a brand new offense, all without the benefit of an experienced quarterback.
That doesn’t mean he buys into the doubt.
“Our motto this season is ‘Make it happen,’” Cook said. “We’re not making any excuses, we’re not worried about how late they got a head coach, how many kids we have or how many we don’t have. We’re just focused on doing our job.”
With the graduation of Blake Greene and the resignation of head coach George Coltharp after a 2-9 campaign last year, the school’s former defensive coordinator returned in July to fill the coaching vacancy.
“(Cook)’s not really a new coach,” said junior running back Deondre Hallman. “He was with us two years ago and he’s just another part of the family. We just welcomed him back.”
Cook’s hiring brought familiarity in more ways than one. Not only had Red Springs had continued to run his defensive scheme last season, when Cook was Lumberton’s defensive coordinator and briefly served as the Pirates’ interim head coach, but he brought Lawrence Ches, another former Red Devil coach, to serve as offensive coordinator.
Ches spent the summer moving the team from the air raid to a spread offense with the goal of taking pressure off key players.
“I think a lot of teams felt that if they got Blake to play bad, they had a chance to win,” Cook said. “This year, going in, you have to focus on more than one running back, to focus on more than one receiver we may have and our quarterback will probably be more of a manager in the game.”
The change goes all the way up to the offensive line, which is moving from a two-point stance to a three-point.
“I never believed in an offensive line being in a two-point stance the whole game. You’re more taking right there than you are giving,” Cook said. “The offensive linemen, they enjoy it. They get to be more aggressive and it’s always more fun to hit-block somebody than get hit.”
Cook said the transition was easier because of his past experience at the school, but still a challenge because there was such a short time to implement it.
Coaches took the mindset that they had to utilize every bit of time they had from conditioning, to the weight room and the finer points of the game.
“There will be a lot of things that change next year, even from this year, because we’ll have a whole season and offseason and summer,” he said. “We really had to come in here and hit the ground running.”
With the changing offense, players worked to find their roles during practice and the team used its scrimmages last week to sort out the details.
Though many of the players are young, Cook said they gained valuable experience last year.
Eric Graham, a sophomore linebacker and receiver, is one of the players working with Cook for the first time.
“By the way he’s got us practicing and what we’ve been doing, I think we’ll have a better season than we did last year.”
Cook said his team doesn’t want to overlook anybody but the ultimate goal is to compete with top teams such as Whiteville.
“If you want to be king of the hill, you’ve got to focus on getting rid of the king and take care of the milestones as you get there,” Cook said. “That’s us right there. We’re not on the level Whiteville is yet, but that’s where our focus is at. We’re not worried about being a sleeper or anything like that. We’re just going to do what we’ve got to do to win game one.”
Coach: Ron Cook
Last year: 2-9 (2-5), missed playoffs
Projected finish: 4-7
Outlook: The Red Devils entered last season with high hopes but failed to live up to the hype and finished ahead only of West Columbus in conference play. With Cook returning to a defense he built, the team is moving to a spread offense that will utilize a more balanced attack that could surprise conference opponents. The goal is to keep the pressure off a singular person. “It will be more of a team effort, more different roles and everybody contributing,” Cook said.
Aug. 22 @ White Oak
Aug. 29 @ Purnell Swett
Sept. 5 vs. Eastern Wayne
Sept. 12 @ South Johnston
Sept. 19 Bye
Sept. 26 vs. South Robeson
Oct. 3 vs. South Columbus
Oct. 10 vs. Whiteville
Oct. 17 @ Fairmont
Oct. 24 @ East Columbus
Oct. 31 @ West Columbus
Nov. 7 vs. St. Pauls*