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Most teams first few days of practice look about the same as what they’ve been doing all summer long. But that’s not the case at all for Horseshoe Bend.

Due to the small nature of the school, a lot of the Generals are working throughout the summer and have all other obligations that keep them off the football field. Also with a new coach at the helm who could see what the Generals really needed was to gain some strength, they spent the offseason focusing more on the weight room and conditioning.

So when the first day of fall practice officially rolled around Monday, it was a completely different atmosphere for Horseshoe Bend.

“This summer, we really focused on more lifting and getting in condition more than actual practice,” HBS coach Jeremy Phillips said. “Granted, we talked about some stuff but our main focus was getting stronger and getting in good condition. So these guys were really excited to finally be able to throw the ball around and hit on each other. It’s a lot different for us.” 

The Generals basically picked up Monday where they left off in the spring. A spread type offense in the past, Horseshoe Bend is moving to a run-first offense and it’ll base out of the wishbone and the I formations. 

On the second day of fall practice, Phillips sent a good chunk of time going over play calling and what those signals should look like on the field. And his biggest message to his team was the Generals are going to simplify things this season.

“I think simple is going to make us play faster and play harder,” he said. “You don’t have to think; you’re just going. I’m a simple-minded guy and I think football is meant to be a simple game. You’re meant to run the ball; you’re meant to throw it a little bit and just get three or four yards a pop and you’ll be all right.”

Moving to those two formations should also cater well to the Generals’ personnel as they struggle a bit with size and speed. They’ll also have several players going both ways.

“Personnel wise, we’re kind of thin,” Phillips said. “But I think the wishbone is going to be good for us and I think the I is also going to be good for us because it’s going to give us a chance to rest some guys that are going both ways.”

Horseshoe Bend should have 30 on the roster and that includes its ninth-graders and two eighth-graders. It also has a couple newcomers, including one particular standout. Aubrey Hill is entering his junior year but will be playing his first year of football.

“He’s going to give us some depth on the line, both offensive and defensive line,” Phillips said. “He’s going to play tight end for us and defensive end and a little bit of fullback. He’s been looking pretty good though.” 

Now with only two weeks until the Generals take the field for the first time under Phillips, the biggest focus is simply execution.

“If everyone is doing their jobs on offense, we’re good,” Phillips said. “If everyone is doing their jobs on defense — filling in the correct gaps, running the right blitzes, fitting off each other right and playing the deep ball — we’ll be fine. We just have to execute, be physical and dominate folks because that’s how we’re going to be able to win ballgames.”

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