The Hamilton Lions probably wouldn’t have played a spring football game, but second-year coach Wade Pierce was still looking forward to getting his team together to answer some questions that he had going into the upcoming season.
“The biggest thing for us is that we were making some huge strides in the weight room, and the kids were getting stronger,” Pierce said. “We were working on a system, and then all of a sudden, we got cut off, and it wasn’t expected. We were behind the 8-ball last year because we were later on getting started, and then this year, we were finally making those big strides before boom, it was over with. There are some kids working at home and doing things by themselves, but also some that aren’t going to do anything if you aren’t there with them with a whistle in your hand.”
In a difficult division that includes county rival Smithville and two-time defending state champion Nanih Waiya, Pierce said the only comfort of missing time in the spring is that it will be a challenge for every team.
“You can’t go two or three months without working out and expect it to be the same,” he said. “But I would feel a lot worse if it wasn’t everyone affected. Smithville didn’t get to have a spring, Noxapater or Nanih Waiya neither. I know it’s like starting over with a lot of them though.”
The Lions had a small senior class last season, however, and will be bringing back several starters in key spots, particularly on both sides of the line.
“We have our front seven returning on defense and our entire offensive line, except for one person. On both sides of the line, we should be pretty solid,” Pierce said. “Everybody who will be starting up front had playing time last year with four starters plus our tight end. I feel very confident that we will be even better at that position, and up front is where our most experience will be.”
Two of the biggest holes to fill will be quarterback and running back with the graduation of Hamilton’s two leading rushers in Ty Hall and B.J. Jones.
“We would have loved to have had them back for one more year, and they could have been really good for us,” Pierce said. “We had some ideas on those roles, but there was also going to be a fight in the spring as to who could step up and fill those spots. With us not having a spring, now instead of having three to four months to answer those questions, it’s only eight to 10 weeks. At the same time, if they will get out there and work, we can also find those guys quickly.”
Some options at running back are Rye Howard and Josh Harrison, and Evan Pounders could step into the quarterback role.
“Rye got a few carries last year, and Josh also played some running back too before he got hurt,” Pierce said. “Evan will get first crack at quarterback. In an ideal world, I would love to say it shakes out like that with those guys, but you don’t always know. Having several different options is good because it gives depth and provides competition in practice.”
Pierce sent his players a five-day workout plan while schools were shut down from mid-March to the first of June.
“I would update it, and then if you did this last week, and it was easy, add some more to it,” he said. “It was things they could do at home. We also stayed in touch through remind messages. It was just simple things like squat jumps, push ups, sit ups and ways to keep your body in shape so that it wasn’t a shock when we started back.”
Pierce said his players are hungry to get back going. His plan is to work outside a good bit of the summer and work on conditioning.
“We had guys that were begging to come up and work out when things were closed, and we just had to tell them that they couldn’t do it right now even though we would have loved for them to be able to,” Pierce said. “I think this will make guys hungrier now, and having a sense of normalcy is really good for them. When we’re outside, we can focus a lot more on conditioning, doing things like flipping tires and building strength.”