Fired Up: Lions Open Preseason Practice Monday
TONY STINNETT, Courier Co-Editor
People have been talking about the start of the Lions' 2010 football season since, well, the end of the 2009 campaign - and that is news in Woodbury. After all, the program had not enjoyed a playoff berth or winning season since 1995 before they fashioned a captured six wins, won the district and reached the playoffs in 2010.
The defending District 8-AA champions begin preparing for their quest to duplicate that feat when camp officially begins Monday morning and continues throughout the week, and second-year Lions Head Coach Joel Schrenk says there is a different feeling surrounding the program this year.
"When I first got here I told everyone from the community to the kids that I expected for us to make the playoffs and they literally started laughing," Schrenk said. "Now it's a given in the players' mind. They know we have to work, be as hungry as we were last year and play hard but they believe it is going to happen and that's good because you always want them to believe they are going to be successful."
Senior Gabe Walkup says the buzz surrounding Lions football is rampant in Woodbury.
"Everybody is pretty fired up about it," Walkup said. "When I see people in the community they are excited and talking about the team. I'm just ready to get it started."
Getting started with a sense of urgency will be the key as the Lions will have several young players filling big shoes in 2010. The offensive line could be one of the youngest in the state with three sophomores and a freshman among the starters.
"Our learning curve has to be fast," Schrenk said. "We have simplified a lot and we have we have simplified it enough but not too much. We took some decisions away to make it a little easier but we also want to make sure we have enough scheme to allow us to win."
That won't be easy with a young team facing a line-up filled with tough non-region foes and a list of Region 8-AA foes looking to settle scores. The Lions reeled off four straight region wins down the stretch to capture the title, including back-to-back wins against Smith County and Upperman to close the regular season.
Schrenk said the Lions enjoyed a productive offseason in which they became stronger and faster.
"One area we wanted to focus on in the off-season was getting stronger and faster and we definitely did that," Schrenk said. "We worked on that and worked on running techniques. Last year we only had two guys run a sub-5 in the 40. Right now we have 10 who are sub-5, and we are stronger across the board."
Players are also more familiar and therefore comfortable in the new-look spread offense Schrenk installed in his first season as the Lions head coach. The spring was an important time for that, particularly for sophomore quarterback Brandon James.
"That was a big emphasis for me in the spring," James said. "I wanted to make sure I was on the same track as my receivers and tailbacks. I wanted to get used to knowing where they would be on the field and when they would be there. We worked on it a lot in the spring and in our 7-on-7 drills. I'm pretty comfortable with that starting the preseason."
Developing a young offensive line, decision-making and development at the quarterback position, and replacing the entire secondary - considered the strength of the defense last season - are among the priorities as the Lions begin preseason camp.