First day

Published 7:56 am Tuesday, August 5, 2014

AHOSKIE – Terrance Saxby’s Hertford County High football players ought to remember their first day of practice under their new coach.

And, no, it shouldn’t be for the rain.

After loosening up on the field under a cool, grey, overcast sky with intermittent drizzle on Friday afternoon Saxby called out his players – to dance.

It was the perfect way to loosen things up.

“I’m excited about coaching the kids that I have here right now,” the first-year field boss said as his players went through their paces in a light drizzle on the soon-to-be-muddy field. “Considering the weather conditions, people not knowing whether we’re going to go out here or not, I’m happy to work with what I’ve got to work with.”

Over 65 kids turned out for the Bears’ first practice and that did not include some who had excused absences from the coaching staff, and still others that might not have wanted to work out in the mud.

Like just about every coach in the state east of Charlotte who held their first practice Friday, the Bears players were taking their first afternoon of instruction in the rains that pelted the state.  For most of the teams that worked outdoors, it was a first taste of what they might face on any given Friday night this season.

Saxby says the early days before players get a chance to suit up in half and full gear will be about reinforcing the basics for the veteran players and an introduction to the high school game for the younger ones.

“It’s all about the basics for the younger guys while for the older players it’s about fine-tuning,” he explained. “For a lot of them this is the beginning of what we’ve tried to instill and work on all summer long and hopefully it’s going to mesh and all come together right now.”

Though the former Chowan University linebacker has been an assistant coach with the Bears and headed up the junior varsity football team a few years ago, this is Saxby’s first season at the helm.  He says he’ll be learning right along with his young charges.

“It’s a learning process for everybody, for all of us,” he continued. “Hopefully they’re going to go through it and we’re going to put them through it fast and in a hurry and they’ll pick it up and pick up the pace that we want to work at.”

Saxby says he hopes to keep both his offense and his defense simple for his players to adapt.  After three seven-on-seven scrimmages in t-shirts and shorts he thinks he’s seen what the essence of his team could be.

“One thing it (7-on-7’s) showed me is that the kids are willing to learn the new scheme,” he contended. “It’s a new offense and a new defense and the kids are picking it up and they’re excited about it.”

The coach inherits a team that graduated 24 seniors, several of whom had the talent to go onto play at the next level; so part of the early scrimmages were a sort of ‘fishing expedition’ for some new players to fill those recently-vacated jerseys.

“It brought out some unexpected surprises as far as talent,” he continued.  “It also put things in perspective for some of the other kids in letting me know what we’re working with and what we’ve got to be able to accomplish.”

After a 1A opener against Southeast Halifax, HertfordCounty has an early season schedule that features games with 3A powers Wilson Hunt[SD1] , Nash Central, and the ever enduring Rocky Mount.  They will close their non-league schedule against 4A South Central.  These are five games that will test this team, but Saxby’s not looking for an early-season break.

“I think the break will come off of the hard work,” he declared. “If we work hard I’m not concerned about catching a break I’m worried about the kids working hard and the breaks will come if we put the work in.”

There may have been dancing, but no one’s “singin’ in the rain” on the first day.  Just a group of players who realize they have a lot of hard work ahead of them and a short time to get it down.

“If they put the work in and they’re willing to do whatever it is I and the coaching staff ask of them then the breaks will come because we worked for them,” Saxby concluded. “That’s what I’m looking forward to; nothing will have to be given to us.”