Pirates getting better acquainted
Porter Ridge High's football team is wrapping up a four-day minicamp today that should help them become more familiar with their new head coach.
The Pirates now play for former Cox Mill head coach Greg Neuendorf, who took over for former head coach Blair Hardin (now at Freedom).
Neuendorf doesn't expect much to change with a program that has been to back-to-back 4A state championship games with a combined 27-3 record during that stretch.
"They are good, smart football players," he said after Wednesday's workout. "We're not doing anything new. It is still blocking and tackling; we're not re-inventing the wheel. There is some new terminology and they pick up on it well."
Quarterback Isaiah Hicklin took over behind center late last year as a sophomore and started the championship game. As a junior he expects to be a much more vocal leader.
"I just know I have to be a leader out here," Hicklin said. "Everybody looks to you. Losing a coach takes a toll but you try to keep doing the same thing you've been doing. Practice makes you better so that's what we're trying to do out here."
Hicklin says the offense will look a lot like years past.
"We're still a spread offense," he said. "We still work at a fast tempo so nothing has really changed. I was going through a lot of pressure knowing that I lost a coach and had a new one with new material. He has kept everything simple and easy for us to understand."
Neuendorf believes in adding wrinkles, whether he's a first-year coach or not, in an attempt to stay a step ahead of the competition.
"Even if it is the same coaching staff, every year you're looking for something to give you an advantage," he said. "You're looking for something that takes advantage of where your strengths are and kind of hides your weaknesses. We're doing somethings a little bit different. A lot of things are staying the same in terms of scheme, base offense and base defense. We're just trying to get the right guys in the right places and find ways we can utilize mismatches and advantages."
So far Hicklin believes the team has been able to absorb the new material pretty well but knows that constant repetition will be the only way to perfect it.
"Nothing really big has changed that could take a toll on us. The main thing was being comfortable with these coaches," Hicklin said. "Getting to know them now, we're comfortable. Now we just have to keep going on through the season.
We're looking real good and fast. We just need a lot of practice. We have to continue to learn the new material."
Neuendorf knew he was walking into a strong pool of talent when he took the job.
"It's football and they are good football players," he said. "They know how to play football and that hasn't changed just because there are different coaches. Those veteran guys know football and are going to be fine."
The minicamp has included two practices a day. Neuendorf is hoping the terminology becomes second nature by the time the season starts in August. The first official practice is Aug. 1, and the Pirates open the year at home against Mount Tabor.
Neuendorf wants to see his squad practice and play fast once the pads are on.
"I want to see us not have to re-teach the same things in August," he said. "If we come back the first day in August and we have to re-teach what we implemented this week, then this week didn't serve its purpose. If we can move on and move forward from this and be ready to take the next step in August, add the physicality to it with the pads on, then this week will be a success."
Neuendorf has been impressed with the community support. The players' parents have catered two meals a day during the minicamp.
"The community is great," he said. "The community is unbelievable. ... Anything we need, they get it taken care of. Good kids come from good families and we have a lot of good kids which means we have a lot of good families."