Ricebirds anxious to spring forward into season

Aug. 8, 2011 at 3:08 a.m.

EL CAMPO - Joey Hunt didn't get to play in El Campo's spring football scrimmage, and he was more than ready to make up for lost time.

"Coach (Bob) Gillis said I wasn't going to play and he'd unleash me in the fall, so I was waiting on that the whole summer," Hunt said. "I was ready to get the season started."

Hunt and his teammates began fall drills Monday morning at Ricebird Stadium and were thankful for the cloud cover and slight breeze that helped them deal with temperatures approaching triple digits.

"The kids came in in pretty good shape and the reason is most of them were here the last five weeks running," Gillis said. "They got tired. When you're out there, you can lose your train of thought pretty quick."

The Ricebirds started a week later than most area teams after holding spring drills.

Gillis was pleased with how much his team was able to carry over from the three weeks of practice in May.

"We have this little check formation or check route that I forgot about," Gillis said. "We worked all spring on it, and one of our kids said 'Coach are we doing the check route?' They're remembering, which I appreciate. We had pretty good retention. We just took it a little bit slower than normal."

The Ricebirds return no starters at the skill position, which was a focal point of spring drills.

"With our quarterback situation, we may have to play two or three," Gillis said. "Cullen Schoener will be the starter, but he'll also play defensive back. Cole Hunt will start at tight end and will also play quarterback and Bryce Brandl plays defense and will also play quarterback.

"We also figured out our running back rotation. We're still figuring out some of the linemen."

Gillis wasn't worried about the 6-foot-3, 280-pound Hunt, who has committed to TCU, and will play offensive and defensive tackle.

"It's different coming to football, especially putting that microwave on your head," Hunt said. "It's just running around and getting into condition. You just get back in the rhythm of football, run plays and get up to the line and make sure you've got everything down by the time pads come."

El Campo will put on pads Friday, which can't come soon enough for defensive end Bryan Sparks, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the sixth game last season against Rosenberg Terry.

Sparks was limited to individual drills in the spring, but should be at full speed by the season opener.

"I feel fine," Sparks said. "I feel like I can do anything. I get tired like everybody else. I'm not 100 percent, but I'll get back to where I was."

El Campo will scrimmage Pasadena Dobie on Aug. 19 at Ricebird Stadium before opening the season Aug. 26 on the road against Waller.

"The main thing we want to do is get their legs underneath them," Gillis said. "We can't really tell who's going to block and who's going to tackle. We kind of know from spring training.

"We want them to know their assignments on the offensive and defensive lines. We also put in a formation that we didn't work on in the spring."



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