Squad takes shape for rebuilding Tigers as opener looms

Posted Monday, Aug. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Mansfield High knew this would be a reloading year after graduation decimated the ranks of experienced varsity football players. Two weeks into fall camp and after the Tigers’ scrimmage, the squad is starting to take a more defined shape.

“I think we’ve had a good first two weeks,” head coach Jeff Hulme said. “I think [the scrimmage] showed us we’ve still got a lot of work to do and get in shape a little bit. There’s a difference between practice shape and game shape. When you play or scrimmage someone else, the energy level goes up and you’re expending a lot more energy than you are in a normal practice, so we’ve got to make sure we are ‘game shape’ ready.”

The Tigers will have to be in game shape when area power Arlington Bowie comes calling on Friday night to officially kick off the 2013 campaign. Still unknown for Mansfield is who will be taking the first snap when that happens. Sophomore Caleb Evans and junior Aaron Funk have been vying for the starting nod at quarterback.

“We feel like they’re both playing well,” Hulme said. “They both made a couple of mistakes [in the scrimmage] throwing the ball. But I think the offense is responding to each of them. We’re not in a situation where the offense is responding to one over the other.

“Whichever one is in there, the running backs are running hard and the line is doing a good job of blocking. I’m not in a hurry to make a decision on the starting quarterback – they’re both going to play against Bowie. If one starts to separate himself, that’s what we’ll go with, but right now we’re still in the mindset that they’re both going to play.”

Hulme also feels good about the rest of his backfield, which is highlighted by tailback Julius Lewis. A pleasant surprise from camp has been the emergence of fullback Brian Williams, who was a bubble player coming out of spring drills.

“We told him some things he needed to do over the summer and he did every one of them,” Hulme said. “He came into camp and has really exerted himself. He had a very good scrimmage so I’m excited about the progress he’s made.”

Defensively, the Tigers have shown athleticism, but the scrimmage showed Hulme where they still needed to improve.

“We need to be better tacklers,” he said. “We have too many people trying to tackle with just their shoulders and just trying to knock people down. The kids see the NFL players do that and think they can do it. We don’t teach tackling that way; we teach to tackle by wrapping up and with your face up. We had too many people not tackling the way they’re supposed to tackle. You can’t do that against good teams like Bowie. You have to tackle people and make them earn every yard they get.”

Hulme has been pleased with the progress the Tigers have shown over their first two weeks of camp, but admits everyone is a bit anxious for the regular season.

“The hardest two weeks of football are the first two weeks because you’re not playing games and you’re just playing against each other,” he said. “Once we get through these first two weeks, that’s when it gets exciting and it goes by really fast. That’s the scary thing is how fast the season goes by once school gets started. Having a home game this first week, it will make for an exciting week, there’s no doubt about that.”

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