(Photo by David Jenkins)
SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Bulldogs got their first glimpse of life without last year's senior crop this past Thursday and Friday at the 2011 SEMO Coaches Association Contact Camp held at Sikeston High School.
Competing against three other local schools in a scrimmage style setting, the Bulldogs showcased this coming year's squad in six scrimmage style games over the two days.
In each contest both teams got the chance to play 15 snaps on offense and 15 on defense.
"The thing that I was really pleased with is that I thought we played really, really hard," Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs said of his team's performance. "We played with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm -- sometimes we're going to have to tone that down a little bit -- but overall, I was pleased with our effort."
Needing to find replacements for key cogs in last year's team such as quarterback Trey Lewis and linebacker Ray Clark, Gibbs said the camp was less about perfect execution and more about seeing how players would react to adversity.
"The thing that we told our kids both times we came out here is that we're going to make mistakes offensively and defensively but it's okay because it's June," Gibbs said. "The biggest thing we wanted to see was effort. We wanted to see it every play and we wanted to see a kid that makes a mistake not go into a shell. We wanted him to forget that play learn from bad plays and come back and be ready to go.
"I like what I saw from that because breaking a lot of new ones in, you never know how that's going to go."
Like Gibbs, most of the other area coaches participating in the camp left feeling like their team was in a better position than when the event started.
One of those was Dexter coach Aaron Pixley, whose squad spent Friday playing a schedule of larger schools while more than holding there own.
"I thought (Friday) was better than (Thursday)," Dexter coach Aaron Pixley said referring to his team's play. "Whenever you're playing the big boys like Jackson, Cape Central and Sikeston you have to be fundamentally right. You really have to be physical and you have to get in good stances and do things right. I felt like today from an offensive standpoint we really played better than what we did (the day before).
"Defensively it's just tough because we don't prepare for the misdirections so Cape and Sikeston hit some big plays on us. But that's alright. It gives us a chance to get our kids out running and flying to the football."
In his second year heading the Charleston program, Bluejay coach Brett Blackman was pleased with progress his team has made in its first year under his system.
"If we're keeping track of points we won four out of six (scrimmages)," Blackman said. "That's an improvement for us. We were able to score points and we were able to stop people in the red zone.
"We were much more competitive than we were last year. So with a good winter in the weight room and so far a good summer in the weight room we've done very well so far."
Like every other team at the camp, East Prairie will enter the upcoming season with holes to fill left by last year's seniors, including finding a new starting quarterback and running back.
Eagles' coach Jason Aycock said he looks at the camp as a chance to get a look at where his team is and who might fill those holes.
"We always use this camp as a deal to see where we're at in the summer," Aycock said. "I feel like we have a head start on things, but we still have a long way to go.
"That's the good things about this camp right here, you find out where you are that way you can get back home and figure out what you need to work on and get things panned out."
As for the Chaffee Red Devils, head coach Charlie Vickery was pleased with the effort, but noted there's much to be done of the they want to improve in last year's 4-7 record.
"We have a long way to go," he said. "But we saw some signs and I thought we played aggressive most of the time. I was real happy with everything that went on."
The complete lists of teams that competed in the camp included Sikeston, Cape Central, Caruthersville, Dexter, Charleston, East Prairie, Chaffee and Jackson.