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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Central Coosa players finally take to the field for their first practice Wednesday afternoon.

While most teams were finally putting on their shells for the first time Wednesday afternoon, Central Coosa was in a much different boat. 

Due to lack of numbers throughout the course of the summer, the Cougars felt it was best to push back their first official practice until school began. That meant players would already be on campus and be more likely to be available for practice.

Even still, Coosa was missing several players and working with extremely low numbers but at least it got on the gridiron and got to work.

“It’s just a repeat of last year for us,” Cougar coach Brett Thomas said. “That’s the biggest thing is breaking that cycle of the kids thinking, ‘It’s the summertime so I don’t have to try to make it to conditioning or summer workouts.’”

But Thomas did have a faithful bunch out during the summertime and 12 Cougars showed up Wednesday for the first official day. Those guys who had been working out during the summer definitely stood out. Ryan Payne and Donta Daniel, who will start at quarterback and tailback respectively, and Levi Crause, who will anchor both the offensive and defensive lines, were clear leaders on the field.

“We’ve also had Cole Scott and Paul Robinson who have been out here,” Thomas said. “(Robinson) is a senior but he’s been doing great. He’s been here the whole summer and dedicated. For the kids that are here, we’re always optimistic and I’m really optimistic overall.”

Thomas thinks the biggest improvements Cougar fans will see is on the line. Crause moved to center on the offensive line and Dawson Duncan will take up a guard spot.

But the main focus Wednesday was really conditioning and running through the basics of the offense and defense. The hardest part about being so far behind the eight ball is making sure Thomas’ Cougars are ready to go when they host Winterboro in a Thursday night game in just two weeks.

“I think that was one of the main things that hurt us last year and will hurt us this year also,” Thomas said. “They’re just not in football condition. Most other teams have been working over the summer and they’ll be in football shape.”

Another huge disadvantage the Cougars will struggle with is sheer knowledge. With so low numbers, a coach can only do but so much in terms of teaching plays and formations. Wednesday, Thomas broke the guys up into skill players and linemen. The offense was set up with trashcans to go over their plays.

“The good thing about (Wednesday) is the core of the team is here,” Thomas said. “We have both quarterbacks, the center, the guards, the wingbacks and my fullback so the core is here. We can still do what we need to do on offense and get the basics of the offense down. This just sounds horrible but we’re going to go over the base of the defense for the first time two weeks before the first game. This is just the first time we’ve had enough players to even set up a defense.” 

But in order to combat being behind, Thomas is going to try to simplify things as much as possible and during the short two weeks of the preseason, the focus will be on repetition.

“What we’ll do is we’re going to focus on the basic offensive plays and the basic defensive set and keep it simple,” Thomas said. “Last year, if something didn’t work, we tried something else to combat the lack of blocking. This time we’re just going to stay with the same thing the whole year so hopefully by the end of the year with repetition they’ll get better.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.