The blazing heat didn’t stop the Chanute Blue Comets from having a successful first official day of football practice at Chanute High School on Monday.
First-year head coach Clete Frazell — though this is Frazell’s 15th year as a Chanute football coach — organized about 61 of his football players to participate in position-specific drills in the CHS gym for an hour, before leading the group outdoors to the Chanute Community Sports Complex stadium to practice offensive and defensive plays. With no pads and helmets due to the scorching weather, the first day’s practice lasted approximately 2 ½ hours.
“It was good, as far as the schedule being a little hard to deal with being inside then coming outside,” Frazell said after 2019’s first day of practice. “I think the intensity was good. And they flew around and had enthusiasm. We got quite a bit of stuff done, so I was pretty happy for the first day.”
In the gym, individual drills were what Frazell and his position coaches were coordinating, including assistants Kurt Sizemore, Devon Crabtree, Luke Hall, Rusty Emling, Bradley Campbell and Kent Frazell, the former longtime CHS head coach.
Running backs were working on their footwork; quarterbacks were honing their timing and precision; receivers were augmenting their catching ability with coaches throwing darts from 7 to 15 yards out; and special teams players listened and performed for their coaches, too.
Football is the most team-oriented game out of the four major sports, and in practice, even the offense and defense have to work in unison. Receivers and secondary players were in a passing drill in which two players — the receiver and cornerback — were running full speed simultaneously from opposite directions, and it was the pass catcher’s job to focus on the coach throwing the pigskin in stride, while the secondary throws their arms in the air in an effort to distract the wide receiver from catching the ball.
No matter the outcome, coaches kept up the encouragement.
After indoor practice concluded, coaches and players walked out to the stadium to work on offensive and defensive plays. A lot of times, the offensive first string ran several plays together, and then when it was time for the second and third string players to participate, many of those players rotated in and out of plays.
Outdoor practice ended with starting quarterback Ty Bowman connecting on a post route to wide receiver Garrett Almond, who scampered to the end zone. The team and coaches erupted in joy as they greeted Almond in the end zone with high-fives.
Frazell said this is the type of enthusiasm he wants out of his players.
“The goal is just to come out and start with a lot of enthusiasm like we did today and get excited about being here,” Frazell said. “We want this to be a fun thing for the kids. If we can keep it fun, it doesn’t seem like they’re working so hard. Our goal is just to get a little bit better every day.”
That message isn’t impervious to players. For Ty Bowman, who last year threw for 1,472 yards and 16 touchdowns, he is trying to work on a few fundamentals.
During the outdoor session of practice, Bowman was throwing several short, intermediate and long passes to his receivers on hand.
“Last year, for the most part, I was pretty accurate, but there were a couple of passes that I really needed to work on,” Bowman said. “My biggest thing that I’ve been working on is accuracy, whether that’s in the pocket or on the run.”
On defense as a defensive end — though last year Bowman was already an All-State honorable mention as a defensive player — he just wants to exude intensity.
“Just having that fire — I’m going to go and the whole team is going to go,” Bowman continued. “Just bully somebody pretty much and just make sure that they know that Chanute is a really good team.”
Running back Tyler Davis, who will also play middle linebacker on defense, said there is a reason why he is working on the timing of hand-offs from Bowman, gap recognition and when to make nifty cuts on defenders.
“Last year we didn’t have much success running the ball, and I want to change that,” Davis mentioned. “I want to see the hole better, hit it fast and hard and finish runs. Hand-offs is a huge thing; I mean that’s what starts the play. (We’ve) got to get the hand-off successfully. And the cuts: make that first level cut and get vertical up the field. I think if you can do that then you’ll be pretty good.”
The Chanute Blue Comets will play in the Jamboree in Fredonia on Aug. 30, before playing their first game of the season versus Circle High School in Towanda Sept. 6.