With the kickoff of the 2014 high school football season quickly approaching, our reporters will be out at local practices checking in with contenders, dark horses and rebuilding teams alike as they gear up for the fall. Here is the latest installment of our Camp Countdown:
To start off his first preseason practice as Quince Orchard’s head coach, John Kelley asked his team to assemble behind a red line in the grass, diagonal to the white lines marking the practice field. Distractions were to be left behind the red line and football was to begin as soon as they crossed it, he told them.
As the team crossed the line and took the field for its first official practice this summer, Kelley took one step closer to his first game as Quince Orchard’s coach. For the next three hours, he energetically bounced from one section of practice to another, barking into his megaphone when he saw things he liked and didn’t like. At the end, Kelley lined everyone up and told them to run and run and run.
“There’s a lot more running,” defensive tackle Adam McLean said.
With two starters back on offense and two starters back on defense, the Cougars are rebuilding after losing 26 seniors. Kelley set a tone of what practices would look like leading up to the season if Quince Orchard wants to build on last season’s 10-2 record. The Cougars open the season at Clarksburg on Sept. 5.
“Things were way more intense,” McLean said. “Coach Kelley is just that fired, high-powered motor guy. He’s all over the place. He gets us jacked up. With us losing some really good talent last year, that’s what we need. We need to feel that stuff and feel that fire and that passion from our head coach.”
Quince Orchard’s defense is expected to be the team’s strength again with McLean, a Penn State commitment who earned All-Met honors after his junior season, and linebacker Jason Heyn returning. In 2013, the defense posted five shutouts and allowed just 11 points per game.
Striving to be “the best defense in Maryland” was said a lot during the practice. The secondary will be brand new, but Kelley said he’s been pleased with how some of the younger players have stepped up over the summer.
“The fact that we’re only returning two starters, it’s not really a big deal,” McLean said. “Everyone knows what Coach Kelley and what the captains and the seniors expect from the defense.”
The offense will have to replace Kevin Joppy, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last year and accounted for 19 touchdowns. Kelley said Kyle Green will be the starting running back this season and Marvin Beander will also see considerable playing time at that position.
The Cougars will also have a new quarterback in junior Carson Knight. The good news for Knight and Green is that Kelley was encouraged with the offensive line. He said the Cougars have at least eight lineman that could start.
“I think everybody’s picking up what they have to do,” Green said. “Everybody’s learning quick. We’re fast learners, so we’re going to be great.”