Sunday, June 25, 2017 This Week's Paper

Passing through summer on the gridiron

// Local squads gearing back up, adjusting to changes

One thing was clear right from the outset of the four-day Lakes Passing League at Harry Lang Stadium on July 23 – while the talent level from last year’s event was very good, the 2012 version was even better from every angle, from the playing field to the sidelines.

“With the rules in place favoring the offense, development of the younger players is the reason for this league,” said Lakes head coach and league coordinator Dave Miller, who has a number of questions of his own heading into the 2012 season. “We lost a number of great players last year, (Zach Banner and Cedric Dozier to name a couple) and we need to know heading into fall camp who is ready to step into their respective shoes.”

While Miller needs to get some answers before the middle of August rolls around, other coaches would like to see where their returning talent lies right now.

“I’m happy where the talent and execution is at this point,” said Bellarmine head coach Tom Larson, who will be looking for a replacement for the departed speedster Michael Rector and thinks he has a good candidate in waiting.

“Drew Griffin has come a long way in a short time with both the mental and physical side of the game,” Larson said of his productive junior-to-be wide receiver.

While Larson is happy about the current state of his defending 4A league champs, two new coaches will make their debut this year on the 3A side of the ball. Pat Johnson steps in for Ken Baker at Foss. The former Lakes player and coach realizes that while the numbers of players are not really high right now, the talent level is certainly there. “The players have been very receptive to this point and while there have been some difficulties in the past, we (the players and coaches) don’t really feel there is a need to discuss them.”

Johnson feels that with the current turnout of players, there are at least six to eight who he considers to be playmakers for the Falcons this year. “Once they start to understand the system better, we’ll begin to see results.”

With things beginning to look up Foss, the excitement is also soaring at Lincoln. Fifteen-year NFL vet and former Seahawk and Lincoln alum Jon Kitna returns to guide the fortunes of Abes football.

“We’re using this time to getting my players to understand the new system and what’s expected of them both on and off the field,” he said.

With his talented freshman son Jordan running the show at quarterback, Kitna really doesn’t believe the number of wins this season should determine his team’s success. “We have a certain ceiling that I expect my players to reach here at Lincoln in terms of both performance and execution, and I think we’ll do just fine.”

While Kitna talks of the team’s ceiling, the one thing he expects to see for the whole season is “their motor will be running as high as it is right now and things will take care of itself.”

While observing Bellarmine closing out the first day’s camp, a closing statement from Larson should give the Lions a great deal of confidence. “Sefo (Liufau) looks real sharp, I like our progress to this point.”