This is the second installment in a daily series leading up to the kickoff of the 2013 high school football season. 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.
Tuesday’s practice ended exactly how Lake Braddock Coach Jim Poythress didn’t want it to — with a scrum between two of his players.
After teammates broke up the shouting players, endured 10-plus laps around the practice field and put away the equipment for the day, Poythress got a bright idea.
“You guys have got beef? Let’s settle it here in the circle” Poythress said, signaling for the two players to come out of the huddle and into the middle. “I’m going to make these two do up-downs and you as their teammates better not just sit and watch.”
As the whistle screeched, the players ran in place, facing each other before going down in a push-up position and back up quickly as Poythress sounded his whistle and their teammates cheered them on.
By the 30th up-down, when the players could barely pull themselves up off the ground, three Bruins ran up behind them and joined them. Soon, the entire team was doing up-downs before Poythress signaled the end.
“Is your beef settled?” the eighth-year coach said. “Good. Let’s close it out as a team, then.”
In Poythress’ eyes, the lessons learned from scenes like this one will prove invaluable this season. The Bruins possess their share of talented individuals but in order to successfully travail one of the area’s toughest schedules and meet the lofty expectations surrounding them, playing as a unit will be the key.
“My expectations are day-to-day improvement, but if we become a team that’s disciplined and team first, me second, then we have a chance to meet the expectations that are out there,” Poythress said. “That discipline and playing together will keep us from silly mistakes and help us learn new schemes on both sides of the ball.”
On offense, the Bruins are led by senior QB Caleb Henderson and junior wideout Aramis “A.J.” Alexander. In their first season together, the duo connected on 75 passes for 741 yards and four touchdowns. Their production helped the Bruins go 9-3 and capture their fourth straight Patriot District crown before falling to Oakton in the first round of the playoffs.
Henderson and Alexander are sure to garner even more attention this year, and in turn, both have made the necessary preparations in the offseason.
“I lost some weight, so I’m running around better and that opens up things downfield,” said Henderson, who orally committed to North Carolina in April. “If — and you can underline that because it’s big — If we play consistent, we will be the most explosive offense in the region.”
“I think we have the best quarterback in the region and we will separate ourselves with the work we put in,” added Alexander, who has an offer from Virginia. “I have the size to be an athletic receiver but that’s not going to carry me. I have to focus on being consistent and that’s what I’ve been working on.”
Another component to opening up the field will be the backfield play of Dejoun Lee and Trevor O’Brien. The two running backs will replace Aaron Hollins, who excelled on the ground and in the slot.
“This is one of the best opportunities that we’ve had to be balanced on offense in a while,” Poythress said. “Sure, we can throw the football and I expect Caleb to produce in the ballpark of what he did last year, but we have fast strong guys in Dejoun and Trevor to progress the run game, too.”
Defensively, Dwight Lomax is poised for a big senior campaign. The senior packed on 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, building his physique in the gym and skills at events like the Nike Football Training Camp, which Alexander and Henderson also attended.
With the added weight, the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder will move from linebacker to defensive end, bringing plenty of quickness and strength to his new position.
“Now that I’m stronger, I can hold my ground on the line and use my speed and quickness to my advantage,” said Lomax, who recently received his first offer fom VMI. “It’s been a bit different adjusting to playing on the line, but Coach Poythress has been giving me tips because he played defensive line, too.”
Lomax’s adjustment along with the offense’s consistency will be tested early. Lake Braddock opens against Robinson, Stone Bridge and Westfield, leaving little room for error and plenty of opportunities for growth as a seasoned unit.
Monday: Oakton Cougars