E.A. Sports Today

The clock starts now

[corner-ad id=2]New county coaches put themselves, their teams in action in this week’s Spring Jam



By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

From the minute Jonathan Nix was approved as Pleasant Valley’s new football coach the Raiders have been on the clock.

One of the first things Nix wanted to establish with his new team is a sense of urgency. It’s an idea that extends from the weight room to the practice field and hopefully translates to Fridays in the fall, where the Raiders will be looking to post their first winning season since 2008 with a coach who has won 30 games the last three years.

“We’re trying to manage every second if we can,” Nix said. “We’re just trying to build a sense of urgency, trying to teach them what it’s like to be urgent, about trying to be successful and not taking things for granted.

“In the grand scheme of things you want to keep moving and the kids to understand every second counts. They have taken to it.”

Over at White Plains, Chris White is going through some of the same things. His approach is looking for players who’ll fight, players willing to raise the bar.

Both coaches have only had their new teams on the field a couple of weeks, but they’ll put them through live action later this week in the Calhoun County Spring Jam at JSU Stadium.

White’s Wildcats are first up Thursday at 4:30 against Wellborn, followed by Alexandria and Talladega at 7:30. Nix’ Raiders are first up Friday against Saks, followed by Weaver and Ohatchee.

The coaching changes have inspired an influx of interest as both programs have drawn 60 players for the spring.

From their group, the Raiders will be looking to rebuild their line after some recent transfers and the backfield. Thomas Emory, a running back last season, and Elijah Borders have been working at quarterback as the successor to graduating Drew Lewiski.

While a lot has gotten done in spring practice, the project won’t be completed with Friday’s game.

“The spring game to me is all about getting kids playing time and seeing who can play and every kid has a chance to get out there and play,” Nix said. “The spring game doesn’t define you; it’s kind of a measuring stick of where you’re at and where you’ve got to get to.”

Unlike Nix, who came to the Raiders from Ragland, White has been in the White Plains program for several years and has the advantage of knowing his players. He has been with the program several years and was a finalist for the job before Larry Strain was tabbed last spring.

Drew Hudson returns at quarterback after being thrown into job last year and is backed up by Bryson Longley, a freshman with a commanding presence in the huddle. Lawrence Jackson returns at running back and White is excited about the addition of several basketball players to the squad.

The Wildcats have “a good bit” of their offense installed and what the fans will see from them Thursday they’ll see from them in the fall. They scrimmaged Friday with mixed results. The good news is White is confident all the shortcomings can be fixed.

The Wildcats haven’t had a winning season since 2003 – or a playoff berth since 1994 — and White says it’s long overdue.

“I want them to raise their standard of play,” he said. “I think they set their bar way too low and they need to raise it up. … It’s time to raise that standard. Don’t be afraid to fail. I’d be very pleased a guy who makes a mistake as long as it’s full speed.”

White knows there will be more than players on display in the spring games. The teams on the field will get most of the attention but it’ll be a day for inquiring minds to see what the new coaches are all about as well.

“People don’t know me,” he said. “I imagine they’ll call Coach Strain and pick his brain ‘what’s he going to do.’

“I expect coaches from our region to be at the game. They want to see what we’re going to throw at them. They want to take a peek at us to see what kind of system we’re going to run; it’s a big deal. They don’t want to wait to the week of the game to get a film.”

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