New Lions’ skipper keeps team hungry
Posted: Friday, May 18, 2012 12:00 pm
By MIKE HUTCHENS
New Dresden head football coach Keith Hodge acknowledged the Lions have gone from being a ‘hunter’ to the ‘hunted’ after finishing as the Class 2A state runnerup last season.
He insisted, though, that changed status wouldn’t affect how Dresden works to prepare for the 2012 campaign this fall.
“We won’t prepare for the season any differently or necessarily work harder, just because people will probably be gunning for us after last year,” insisted Hodge, who was named the Lions new skipper in January — succeeding Scott Hewett, who stepped down to focus on his administrator’s duties as assistant principal.
“We have had a motto in the off-season and this spring, though, and it’s, ‘If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.’ We’ve been working at getting better every day.”
Dresden is concluding its spring practices with a pair of scrimmages this week, having worked against Trenton Tuesday at UT Martin, and with a second session scheduled for today in Paris vs. the jayvee and freshman squad of Class 5A state champion Henry County.
Hodge, the Lions’ offensive coordinator the past three seasons when they’ve won 28 games after the program was winless in 2008, faces the task of replacing a handful of all-staters and college signees off last year’s club that made it all the way to the BlueCross Bowl title game with four consecutive road playoff wins before losing to Friendship Christian School in the championship matchup.
Among those who graduated and left voids for next year’s team were record-setting quarterback Gatlin Hatchel, linebacker Eric VanDyke, tight-end Tyler McPeak and lineman D.J. Ellis.
“We lost some good folks from last year, sure, but we’ve had some players who’ve worked hard in the offseason and who have had good spring practices,” Hodge claimed. “We’ve really stressed not becoming complacent after last season and have talked about showing up every day to work hard and get better.”
The coach singled out the efforts of diminutive offensive performer Devan Raymer — a key cog in last year’s march to Cookeville — as well as defensive lineman Alex Ellison and linebacker Joey Caldwell as those who’ve had solid springs.
Raymer and Ellison will be seniors in 2012-13, Caldwell a junior.
A focus on fundamentals and physical play has been Hodge’s daily theme with his troops.
“Along with finding out who really wants to play, I wanted to see us be a more physical football team this spring,” he said. “I’m a little bit old-school, and I know being physical always gives you a chance at winning — especially when you are out-athleted. We’re not going to have the athleticism of some of the teams we play, so we need to be physical.
“Fundamentally, I just want us to get good snaps back to the quarterback, to stay on blocks and to break down and make tackles the correct play on defense. It sounds trivial, but it can be the difference in winning and losing close games.”
Against Peabody in the first of the team’s two scrimmages on Tuesday, the Lion first-team offense struggled for the first two 10-play series’ before finally finding the endzone at the end of a good drive on a pass from quarterback Davis Moran to Austin Daniel covering 25 yards.
The Dresden defense gave up a couple of scores in one Tide possession and a third score later before both teams began implementing reserves.
Following today’s session vs. Henry County that will wrap up spring drills, the Lions will begin their summer program, which will include at least three 7-on-7 competitions.
Published in The WCP 5.17.12