The sun beat down on glistening white helmets — young upstarts shuffling through the first of many practices in a long season.
That was the scene at Ardmore High School on Tuesday, as the Tigers went through their opening practice of the preseason, a three-week span that will be an evaluation of the next crop of Tiger contributors after the loss of nearly every starter due to graduation.
That’s a big difference from last preseason. In 2011, the Tigers had not just starters back, but players who had significant roles as reserves the previous season.
This preseason, it’s more baptism by fire for Ardmore, and a lot more underclassmen flying around.
“There’s a lot of younger guys,” said junior receiver/safety Carter Swanson, one of a handful of Tigers with starting experience. “So, people are going to have to work hard and step up, because not very many people on this team have experience. But I think we’re pretty good.”
Before the second half of practice on Tuesday, second-year Tigers’ coach Douglas Wendel gave the team a speech that focused on “quality reps,” “teaching” and, most importantly, “competition.”
“Compete for a starting position, compete for playing time, compete to beat your opponent,” Wendel stressed.
Despite the personnel overhaul, there is one similarity to last season’s team thus far. Swanson said the Tigers’ strength early looks to be on the defensive side, as they make the conversion to a new offensive scheme.
“We know what we’re doing on defense,” Swanson said. “While we’re trying to get the offense going, I think our defense will help us.”
The Tigers will go from 7 a.m.-noon every day this week, with contact drills starting Friday. The first scrimmage is against Noble (Aug. 17) followed by the Ardmore Super Scrimmage (Aug. 23), each at Noble Stadium.
The Tigers open the season against Ada on Aug. 31.
Indians rebuild on the line
The long wait is over. Football has come back to Oklahoma.
Across the state, the young men representing high schools all over the Sooner State headed out to the field for their first work of fall camp, and a rebuilding squad at Plainview was no exception.
Clad only in shorts, shirts and helmets, the first day of camp was all about getting back into the swing of things and working on the fundamentals that will become second nature by September.
But for head coach Chris Berus, the biggest positive he has seen is the enthusiasm his players have shown for getting to work.
“Our kids are fired up about starting,” Berus said. “That’s what’s exciting for a coach.
“That’s when you believe that even though we may not be experienced at some spots, we’ll get things done.”
The positions to fill for the Indians will be numerous. Almost the entire offense from a year ago is lost, including the entire offensive line, a key position group that Berus is hoping to coagulate in the precious days he has before the start of the season.
“They’re not necessarily young, but they’re inexperienced,” Berus said. “Those five determine our success when it comes to the field.”