RED SPRINGS — Lawrence Ches’ voice can be heard across a field and over the clashing of metal in the Red Springs High School weight room constantly encouraging and giving advice to his young crowd of football players going through summer workouts.
The first-year head coach enters his fourth year at Red Springs and continues to hope that the high energy he emits will be contagious with his team. The Red Devils capped off a 6-6 year last season with a first-round state playoff exit at Ayden Grifton. Red Springs has had a consistent crowd of over 35 players each day for summer workouts thus far, and the impression the group has left with Ches is a good one.
“I don’t know if I give it to them, but they’ve been around me long enough to know that if I’m moving faster than them, we’re about to push the ground,” Ches said.
Keeping the energy up will be one thing that Ches hopes to do with the team, but there are also three other areas the Red Devils are focusing on this summer.
Adjusting to a new head coach
Even though Ches isn’t a new face to the program, there is still adjusting to do and the new atmosphere through the spring and summer has gone without a hitch.
“They kind of already know the plan, already know the format, they know how we do things. It’s been real seamless,” he said. “
Ches credits the familiarity as reasons the offseason has gone over well.
One of the first points of emphasis that Ches wanted to address was the lack of discipline Red Springs showed last year. Several games were affected by late unsportsmanlike or undisciplined penalties. Resolving the issue is something that starts at the top.
“I’ve tried being a strong role model, being the example,” Ches said. “If everybody feels like they are important to the program, nobody slips. From the most experienced senior to the last-in-the-door freshman.”
Preparing the youth
There just a few spots on defense that are left vacant from departures of seniors, but the offense will need to be reloaded from the ground up, and many of the players showing up are first-year players that could possibly fill the void.
With a lot of the top returners spending this week with the basketball team, it helps make those players stand out as possible fill ins for the open positions that Ches has facing him heading into the fall.
“We’ve got a lot of new kids and a lot of new athletes that are new to football,” he said. “Great athletes that haven’t played a lot of football so we are coaching like crazy. I really believe we’ve had a lot of young guys that are starting to step up.”
ST. PAULS — St. Pauls enters the second season of coach Ernest King’s tenure and will have a bit of a new look this year.
The Bulldogs had a rebound season in 2016, going 6-6 before losing to Bunn in the first round of the state playoffs. The playoff appearance was the first for the program since 2014.
Several pieces return from that team as it moves forward through summer workouts.
With the departure of most of its defensive starters, King sees a new defensive system coming this year. Size was a major asset last year for St. Pauls and with most of the size up front departing, it will depend on speed and the workouts are preparing it for that style.
“We’ve got to be a whole lot more smarter, more conditioned and faster,” King said. “When you lose the guys we lost on defense, it changes things, but we’ve got a good group of kids that are going hard.”
Coming off successful season
King sees an uptick in enthusiasm and attendance through the workouts after posting the best record in three years and a new environment coming to the program. Numbers have hovered around 40 each day for workouts.
“This year our numbers are up in the summer,” King said. “A lot of our guys have come out early. Our veterans are back and are more dedicated. You come out here hoping that each day you come out there will be more and more kids and that’s happening.”
Also aiding in the increase in numbers is rising freshmen coming out from the middle schools. St. Pauls Middle School won the county championship last year.
With a lot of departing experience, King is hoping that this summer the Bulldogs can build up the reserves to make sure that there’s little to no drop off in ability and understanding from his subs.
“At a small school, you’re as good as your backup,” King said. “The biggest thing is we try not to go both ways and that’s why we try to develop backup throughout the year.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.