Hope Springs Eternal for ALA-Queen Creek Football

7 months ago Andrew Luberda 0

If hope can be defined as the belief one holds during difficult circumstances that things will get better, then the Patriots football team is about to be rewarded in at least one such circumstance following the conclusion of spring practice earlier this week.

Facing the offseason reality of 32 seniors moving on after graduation, head coach Rich Edwards and the Patriots coaching staff entered spring practice looking for 20 new starters. Replacing 20 seniors, many of them multi-year varsity starters, qualifies as a difficult circumstance for a team only two years removed from a state championship and a year removed from reaching the state semifinals.

After viewing three weeks of practice through his Ray-Ban eyeglasses, Edwards has a greater outlook than he did following the 28 – 21 season-ending loss to eventual 3A State Champion Casteel last November.

“We’re a lot more optimistic than we thought we would be at the end of last year, as we thought about who was coming up,” Edwards told CountyLinePreps.com on May 16. “Our guys have been in the weight room in the offseason. (We’ve) had a lot of competition; it won’t be easy to choose (new starters). (I’m) really happy with the competitiveness and the level of competition we’re seeing.”

No doubt the most important of the open spots is at quarterback, where Red Mountain transfer Bo Winfield is penciled in as the starter after sitting the required five games as part of the AIA “transfer rule.”

 

 

Winfield, a senior-to-be, will eventually replace three-year varsity member and two-year starter Matt Nevill, who is one of the departing seniors. Winfield is expected to bring an added dimension to the position.

“Our offense, in the instances of (Matt) being able to run the ball, we didn’t have a lot of that,” Edwards said. “Bo will bring that dimension to us this year.

“He’s going to have sit out five games, but when he’s with us (we’ll) have the ability to use him in the running game, and his athleticism is going to help us a lot.”

Junior-to-be athlete Carter Taylor and senior-to-be lineman Seth Verenski are the only two returning starters among the offense and defense. All-Conference kicker Talen Rider should also be considered a returning starter.

Taylor, who caught four touchdowns a year ago, believes the Patriots need to continue to make progress throughout the remainder of the spring and summer in preparation for the season.

“Just get bigger in the weight room,” he answered when asked what he wants to see the Patriots accomplish during the offseason. “We need to keep enduring so we can ball out when the season comes.”

Verenski, Rider and Scott Delcamp are the only remaining members of the 2016 team that won the 3A State Championship. As a result, the trio knows what it takes to win a state title.

Do the less experienced varsity players have what it takes to compete at that level?

“Everyone needs to have that drive to want to succeed,” Verenski responded. “I feel like they’re starting to pick up on (that) as they’re coming up, practicing at the varsity level.

Edwards knows the formula for success, the same one that was perfected by many of his graduating seniors.

“We have to earn it each and every day,” he said. “(We) have to come out and practice hard, work hard in the weight room, and if we do that we believe we can continue that success.

“No one is going to give it to us, they’re not going to hand it out, we’re going to have to earn it.