Horseshoe Bend is one of the smaller programs in Tallapoosa County but the spring has shown a lot for head coach Jeremy Phillips.
Intending to install everything the staff set out for in the spring being accomplished, the overall turnout of players was a mild surprise to Phillips.
“Something that was pleasantly surprising me was that we had a great turnout,” Phillips said. “46 total players came, doubling our numbers from last year. We had some important positions to fill and I think that we have found some guys that could fill them.”
With the Generals not coming away with a win in the spring game, Phillips said that he doesn’t put a lot into spring game scores despite playing Addison and Thorsby who were both in the AHSAA playoffs last year.
Instead of worrying about the score, Phillips found himself looking at his new players.
“What I was looking for was how the new guys respond playing against someone, how we executed, how we competed, how we work out, and to see who will step into the team’s leadership roles,” Phillips said. “In the spring game, we don’t really game plan for the teams that we are playing. We focus on the things that we do. Playing new guys that have not had many snaps showed at times and we will learn from the experiences in those games. I thought that at times we looked really good on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and at times our inexperience showed.”
Amongst the number of new faces, the Generals do have a considerable number of returners back. Names synonymous with the program right now are Holt Tidwell, Gavin Brazzell and Chandler McMath. Even Rylan Sharpe is expected to return despite missing spring.
“These guys picked right up where we left off from last year and their experience will help the offense tremendously,” Phillips said. “We do have some new faces that have stepped right in and have been pleasing. Luke Jones making the move from running back to Quarterback and has started picking up the offense well. Sophomores TJ Stugall and Calvin Mangram are filling the guard positions on the offensive line and have shown that they have what it takes to be major contributors.”
The defensive side of the ball had some major holes in the middle of the defense but Phillips believes that Stugall, Jacob Kitchens and Calvin Mangram did well at linebacker.
“I also was pleased with Sawyer Smith on the defensive line,” Phillips said. “Sawyer is a guy that hasn’t played football in a while and came back out this year and I look for him to make major strides as he gets more reps. On the defensive line Jacob Turner, Taylor Humphrey, Dewey Freeman, and Brody Bryan are all returning along with the entire secondary.
“It’s just a matter of getting the guys that do not have much experience in key positions more reps, and spring was a good starting point to see where we stand,” he continued. “We have guys that have played but may not have started it just takes some getting used to.”
Some of the other goals for the Generals included going over fundamentals and explaining the core offensive and defensive philosophies and schemes. Only four of their players out of the 46 are going to be seniors and they wanted to set a solid foundation for the young guys to build on.
The Generals established themselves a bit last year and are looking to build on that in 2021. The program wants to be physical on both the offensive and defensive lines while running the football and being solid on defense.
“Last year we were just a few snaps away in multiple games where we could have won and our win-loss record would have been completely different,” Phillips said. “We are really focusing on finishing games off strong and pulling out close games to win.”
As far as getting back to normal in football post-pandemic life is looking as close to normal as before.
“We are still having to follow certain protocols, but if it is what we have to do to continue to workout, practice and play we will follow all the guidelines,” Phillips said. “I felt that over the past football season we followed all the guidelines and in turn got to play in all of our games.”
College recruitment is still in the air but Phillips did say that a few coaches have been in talks with him about some of the Generals and there is excitement to see how it all pans out.