By the time the first practice rolls around, Central Coosa’s football team is already behind the eight ball. The Cougars usually have very little — if any at all — spring practice and they’re extremely limited during the summer due to the sheer number of participants.
Coosa County is just over 650 square miles but only one school serves the entire county. That large area combined with young people having other obligations makes it difficult for players to get out to football practice on a consistent basis, especially when they’re not otherwise there for school.
Being so behind when it comes to weight training and fundamentals and scheming makes it tough for Coosa to build any kind of program. That’s been evident the past several years.
But this offseason, Cougar coach Brett Thomas, who just completed his second season at the helm, is hoping to make some major changes.
“The thing going forward is there are some things that are going to have to be put in place that I’m going to talk to the superintendent about as far as having a better showing in the summer,” Thomas said. “That’s the big thing. Spring is only 10 days but it’s the summers when everyone gets in, you can go over specifics and work on core drills. That’s where we’re going to focus on.”
The highest priority is bringing summer workouts to the kids and trying to build from the ground up.
“I’m happy that the local community has started a youth football program in Goodwater so that helps out immensely,” Thomas said. “With board approval, I plan on having conditioning off campus where the kids live. We’ll move to maybe having one or two days of conditioning in Goodwater, somewhere where the kids could walk or it’s easier to get a ride to.”
It’s also going to be important for the Cougars to start strength training early and often. With Thomas no longer being the softball coach — volleyball coach Chris Elliott has taken over that role — he can give a bigger focus to his football players. Coosa will start weight lifting and conditioning in January and by March, he hopes to have a full-fledged program to be prepared to go into spring training.
The ultimate hope is if there’s enough participation, Coosa will play a spring game against Verbena. Comparatively, the Cougars didn’t even have spring training at all this past year.
Despite all the setbacks and disadvantages Coosa faced, the Cougars still managed to put a team on the field every week amid doubts they could finish the season. And although they won only one game, Thomas knows his team got a lot of life lessons the players will carry for a long time.
“I can’t lie: Every Monday morning, I woke up thinking, ‘This afternoon, ugh, how many people am I going to have?’” Thomas said. “But every week, for the most part, they came back. Some of those kids came back and they were wanting to play every week, every week. I actually had more players than I did midway through the season and it’s a testament to them. They showed a lot of fortitude.”
And the good news is the Cougars did at least get that one win, which many Cougars before them couldn’t say. Thomas said he was especially happy for his seniors — Donta Daniel, Dawson Duncan, Dawson Thornton, Paul Scott and Ryan Payne — to get that final win.
“All those boys were consistent,” Thomas said. “Dawson Duncan really surprised me. He turned into a really great receiver and he made a difference in the defense from last year.”
Daniel has been the heartbeat of the Cougars, especially offensively, for the last three seasons and it’s going to be tough to replace him.
“He’s a leader by example and by voice,” Thomas said. “In the classroom and in the hallways, he’s always carried himself like a model student and athlete. The thing I’m most proud of is he’s consistent. He’s consistently a great student and a great athlete.”