The Cleveland High School Blue Raiders have a lot to play for this year. Staggering through a three-win season a year ago, Cleveland Coach E.K. Slaughter and his staff are now attempting to return the Blue Raiders to football prominence.
This challenge has been in the planning stages through the summer, and ventured to pads on Monday.
Enthusiasm during Monday’s workouts was about as high as the summer temperatures on the Cleveland High School football practice field.
The Blue Raiders kicked off a three-day football camp on the Cleveland High campus at 7 a.m., after the players had arrived late Sunday evening at the Jones Wrestling complex.
After breakfast and devotions, the 2010-11 Raiders had a short team meeting and then went through a trio of practice sessions spaced throughout the day.
The thunderstorm which swept through the community around 3 p.m. caught the Raiders just as they finished their early afternoon workout.
Today it will be more of the same, while Wednesday’s schedule includes two practice sessions and a late-afternoon cookout at Tinsley Park with parents and other family members.
Slaughter, the Raiders’ second-year coach, appeared pleased with the first day of work by his Raiders ... although the heat was somewhat of a handicap. Still, he’s not yet assured of the potential of this 2010-11 team.
“We really won’t know much until we can get involved in some scrimmages,” Slaughter said prior to the arrival of the thunderstorm. “We need to work against some other people.”
The Blue Raiders will get that chance Friday at home with the team’s first preseason scrimmage at 6 p.m. against East Hamilton.
Asked if the Raiders were going to focus on basics during these early drills, Slaughter said he and his staff have pretty much installed the basic ingredients over recent weeks.
Cleveland has about 75 players out for football, including what Slaughter considers a good group of about 30 freshmen to bolster the Raiders’ depth. Two key linemen were missing from Monday’s start of practice ... one being ill and the other visiting in Texas.
Slaughter agreed his team has some size (in certain spots) and speed. But, he emphasized, it is still too early to really assess skill levels and the potential of this team.
With the storied history of the Cleveland High School football program, and its multiple state titles and trips to the TSSAA playoff series ... last year was a disappointment for Slaughter, his staff and the school’s football family.
But with pads popping on Monday, the Raiders are working to return to the elite of Tennessee high school football. The success with this effort will come as the season progresses.
First will come the continuation of the football camp today and Wednesday, and then there will be Friday’s scrimmage. The Blue Raiders will open their season against McMinn Central.
High school teams across the state opened preseason drills (in pads) on Monday. Coaching staffs were forced to be conservative due to the extreme heat.
Bradley Central, Walker Valley and Polk County also began preseason workouts.
Comments from other teams:
Bradley Central Bears
Bradley Central Coach Damon Floyd emphasized that his staff, and players, are working to improve on last season’s 5-5 record. The Bears pulled off a few surprises along the way.
“It was better, but it’s still not where we want to be,” Floyd said.
The Bradley Central coach said Monday’s first preseason workout “Didn’t go too bad, but it didn’t go too great. It’s just too early to really tell.”
“The players have a great attitude and they want to get better,” the Bears coach added.
Bradley Central has around 95 players out for football, with about 60 returning from last year’s 5-5 team. The Bears will be holding two-a-day workouts today, Wednesday and Thursday, with a big five-team scrimmage at Bradley on Friday (beginning at 6 p.m.).
Teams visiting the Bradley campus Friday include East Ridge, McMinn Central, South Pittsburg and Boyd-Buchanan.
Bradley Central will scrimmage East Hamilton next Thursday, and then go against Red Bank the following Wednesday (Aug. 11). The Bears will open the season this year at Polk County.
Walker Valley Mustangs
Walker Valley Coach Ted Lockerby and his staff are facing much the same task as Cleveland ... rebounding from a disappointing season.
The Mustangs were 1-9 a year ago, but are hoping for a much-improved campaign this year.
Lockerby said Monday’s two practice sessions went “well,” although the players were forced to removed helmets and pads in the afternoon due to the heat. “It was just too hot,” the Walker Valley coach said.
Although he was pleased with Monday’s workout, Lockerby said “We still have a long way to go.”
Walker Valley has about 75 players competing for spots on this year’s team. The Mustangs will have two-a-day workouts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with a longer workout on Tuesdays and Thursdays combined with physical conditioning.
Walker Valley has a scrimmage next Friday, Aug. 6, with Baylor, and will then scrimmage against Chattanooga Howard at 5 p.m. Aug. 10. The Mustangs will open the season against Knoxville Bearden.
Polk County Wildcats
The Polk County Wildcats of Coach Derrick Davis also braved the excessive heat on Monday, but team members only had a “single” experience.
“We’ve never done two-a-day workouts,” said Coach Davis. “We just go one-a-day. Sometimes I worry that we need to be doing like everyone else,” Davis added.
The Wildcats’ mentor said his team is lifting at 5 p.m. and then going out on the field at 6 p.m. “We will practice at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and then begin a little earlier on Wednesday,” Davis said Monday evening. He added that Thursday’s workout will be at 6 p.m., unless the heat index is too extreme.
Polk County will get its first taste of competition in a 6 p.m. scrimmage Friday. The Wildcats will open the season at home against Bradley Central.