Donning red and white mesh jerseys, asphalt-colored helmets and pro pads, members of the Brownstown Central football team swayed in their practice line.
It’s the first opportunity to hit an opponent that isn’t a teammate since last November, and the excitement has been mounting for months.
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At the Franklin College football camp, the Braves’ coaching staff takes every practice session seriously.
“This is the one time all summer we go 11-on-11,” Brownstown Central head coach Reed May said. “I like to do it early in the summer so we get the chance to see who our players are and aren’t.”
The Braves practiced with a number of teams, including the likes of Eastern Greene, Winamac and Mount Vernon (Fortville), from Tuesday through Thursday.
Each day had three practices, and the coaches and players stayed in dormitories, per tradition.
Brownstown Central practiced on three different surfaces — turf, grass and hardwood.
Due to a lightning delay, one of the practices was moved indoors.
The Braves are looking to replace 14 graduated seniors who led the team to last year’s semistate game at Lawrenceburg.
In 2017, the Braves will feature 10 seniors on the roster.
“There are a lot of new faces, so we want to see who is going to step up,” May said. “I like doing it early in the summer because if you have someone banged up, which unfortunately happens sometimes, they have time to recover. The main thing is that we’re trying to talk personnel. After every practice, we talk about who we think has a chance to help us on varsity. We’re going to have to see who steps up.”
Senior Gus Hogan will take over the quarterback position.
While Hogan replaces Kyle Kramer, May said he isn’t changing the offense from the shotgun Wing-T.
“With the offense we run, it’s more run-oriented anyway,” May said. “Gus was a good slot for us last year. He kind of fits the same mold (Kramer) did — run first and pass second. He has done a good job in the 7-on-7s. He was a quarterback, and then we moved him back to slot, and now, he’s quarterback again.”
While Hogan served as a backup QB his freshman and sophomore years, he said he’s excited for the opportunity to lead the offense.
“I take it as a senior leadership role to motivate my guys,” Hogan said. “I don’t want to show any kind of stress. I want to keep my cool because they will follow what I do. It’s up to me to keep a level head and take it all in.
“Our coaches are very dedicated to helping us out and picking apart the little things that we’re not doing correct. We’re building as better players and people altogether. If we listen to our coaches, we will be successful.”
Returning a number of linemen, the Braves plan to win the line of scrimmage.
“It’s good to have guys that know what they’re doing on the line,” senior Lendon Underwood said. “You have other seniors with me that help me lead. Taking on the whole line as a single leader would be hard. It’s nice to have some guys coming back that can help out.
“I think the returning line will be a big part of (the season). Having the experience in the trenches helps a lot, having games under your belt.”
May said there are holes to fill on both sides of the ball, and the staff is finding the right fits.
“We do have some linemen back, so that’s a plus there,” May said. “Defensively, we’ve lost all but one defensive back. We lost all of our linebackers to graduation, so someone will have to step up. Offensively, the same way, our slots and fullbacks graduated. We have some athletic kids, but they will have to pick it up.”
While there are some uncertainties with a young team, May said the team is coming along well.
“We had a great run last year, and they know we have the talent to do well again this year, and they’re excited,” May said. “The biggest thing is that we need to be at our best come sectional time.
“What happens in the regular season is important, but with the inexperience we have, it’s not so much how good we are at the Corydon game. It’s how good we will be in the first game of sectional. If we get better every day, we will have a good chance come tournament time.”