As the countdown towards kickoff for the high school football season draws ever closer, the young men of Plainview finally got a chance to knock helmets with somebody wearing a jersey different from their own, as the Indians took on Millwood in an informal scrimmage Thursday night.
The rules of the “game” proved quite lax, with over an hour of work done without a clock, and no score was kept, but the work that was done holds no less meaning to Plainview coach Chris Berus.
“When we get in a scrimmage setting like this, we get kids who go compete,” Berus said. “It gives us a chance to build some depth.”
That hunger was on display early on, even before the varsity squad took the field, as the junior varsity units of the two teams played each other for about an hour.
Several Indians stood out individually during the JV period, including sophomore Kelton Kelch, who had a sack, freshman Jamaal Betterson, who showed athletic moves on both sides of the ball, and freshman Cole Tucker, who came down with a big interception near the end of the period.
Berus was thrilled with the contributions of his younger players, who showed that they can be relied on to possibly contribute on the big stage this fall.
“You get kids like that who can make plays, they’ll definitely help on special teams,” Berus said. “With some of the guys we have working both ways, it’s good to have players like that who can give some of the starters a break by contributing.”
Once the varsity squads took the field, there were plenty of highlights to be found from the upperclassmen.
Taber Jordan, one of two athletes Plainview will likely utilize at the quarterback position, showed nice touch on passes both short and long, connecting with Brandon Nowell on a long completion early before throwing a 30-yard bomb to Gage Kennedy for a touchdown moments later.
The aerial attack is something Berus, a proponent of power running to his core, said he made a conscious effort to work on during fall camp. Berus stated that he estimated the team spent almost 40 percent of offensive practice time on passing.
“We made an honest effort as a coaching staff to develop the passing game,” Berus said. “We still want to run the football, but with the group of young men we have now, we need to be more balanced.”
One of Jordan’s favorite targets all night was Chase Brooks, who made three very nifty catches, including a shoestring catch that elicited an awed reaction from the crowd.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Berus said. “He’s one of those guys that is going to help us put guys on their heels a little more.”
Page 2 of 2 - Not that there was a lack of running. James Bowker, the more rushing-oriented option at quarterback, showed an easy comfort with the option game, helping set up some nice runs for his backs and getting good yardage himself on some keepers, including one bone-crushing hit that forced the Millwood defender in his path to leave the game for a few minutes.
“He is one of the meanest kids I’ve ever been around, and when I say mean it’s in the good way,” Berus said. “He’s going to be an anchor of who we are as a team because of his toughness and physicality.”
Defensively, the squad got good contributions from Kastin Spencer, who recorded a tough interior sack when he shot the gap through the line, and Jordan Ricketts, who recovered a fumble near the end of the scrimmage.
Everything was not entirely flawless, however, as the contest against a supremely talented Millwood squad exposed some holes that Berus and his staff will need to close in the next fortnight.
The offensive line, a unit replacing all five starters, struggled against a bigger and more athletic Millwood defense.
“Our pass protection has got to come a long way,” Berus said. “And we knew that because we had so many new starters.
“We had a lot of timing issues, and that’s something we expected.”
But perhaps the biggest issue came in Plainview’s final offensive series. After working down to inside the 10-yard line, there were several issues with communication between quarterback and center. Plainview ended up unable to score a touchdown.
“The situation got a little bit bigger than our kids,” Berus said. “Our kids aren’t quite seasoned yet ... those last two snaps were a little bit hotter.
“Same center, who helped us drive all the way down the field, but the game got a little bit bigger. That’s all part of it, though.”
And that, according to Berus, is still the main message to his players, one he delivered in an impassioned post-game huddle at midfield.
“You can look at certain plays and you see missed opportunities, but we try to look at the big picture,” Berus said. “We see the things we did great, and the things we didn’t do so well then go over them and I bet that kid won’t make the same mistake again.”