Area football 0804

ON THE RUN: Cass running back Alex Evans gains ground against Churubusco in sectional action on Nov. 4, 2005. Evans is part of Cass’ returning cast this year after the Kings surged to a 13-win season last year.

No Kokomo-area football team had more success in 2005 than Cass.

The Kings ruled the regular season, mowing down the Mid-Indiana Conference in impressive fashion, then won a school-record 13 games and their second regional title in school history.

But coach Scott Mannering brings his charges to the first week of practice with some questions — questions he says other teams in the MIC don’t have to answer.

“Pretty much everybody in the conference is going to be better than last year,” Mannering said. “Everybody’s going to bring their best game against us and we’re going to have to be able to respond.”

What have the Kings been doing this summer to prepare for the coming fury?

Nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary, anyway.

Since the IHSAA relaxed its rules for summer contact between coaches and players, there’s been an explosion of opportunities to monopolize time spent on the field through various camps, tournaments and competitions.

With the exception of a one-week moratorium surrounding the Fourth of July, summers at many schools are merely a two-month run-up to the first day of practice, which was Monday.

Not so at Cass. Mannering is more old-school, preferring to keep his kids at arm’s length in June and July so they can pursue other interests.

“We go to a camp and we have our own camp and we try and get in the weight room a lot, but we don’t do a 7-on-7 league and we don’t go to a lot of tournaments and stuff like that,” said Mannering. “I want them to do other things. Then we really try and push it hard once we get to two-a-days.”

It’s hard to argue with their success, at least on a total-program basis. The Kings have been highly ranked statewide recently in football, basketball and baseball, winning a Class 2A basketball state title in 2003.

Senior Garrett Segraves is a perfect example. Last year’s Kokomo Tribune All-Area Player of the Year in football, Segraves was point guard on Cass’ regional-finals basketball team and named the state’s Junior Player of the Year by Hoosier Diamond Magazine. He is one of Indiana Football Digest’s 25 Prime Time Players for 2006.

“We’re trying to make it like it’s still summertime,” Mannering says. “We want them to be excited to play when practice starts, not that they’re tired or dreading it. It’s worked in the past and hopefully it’ll continue.”

Below are capsule looks at Tribune-area football squads Cass, Maconaquah, Tipton and Tri-Central as they begin practice for the 2006 season.

Cass

The Kings are sorting through a group of about 60 players in the upper three grades to find replacements for four of their five starting offensive linemen and tight end John Metcalf, who was the Tribune’s All-Area Defensive Player of the Year at linebacker in 2005.

“We actually had seven and sometimes eight seniors who all rotated in the offensive line,” said Mannering, who so far has moved a pair of senior tight ends, Trent Horner and Alex Nicoll, into the mix.

“We’ve got a group of underclassmen that I’ve been real pleased with,” he said. “If we’re not strong on the offensive line it won’t be because we haven’t worked real hard at it. It’s getting pretty competitive there.”

As expected, optimism is high on a team that has won 33 games over the course of the last three seasons.

“I think especially our older kids are pretty excited,” said Mannering. “They enjoyed [last season’s success]. It was a good time, but everything starts over. It’s a new year.”

Maconaquah

Coach Bob Freije has the Braves stressing technique and fundamentals as he begins his second year at the helm.

“That’s the key,” he said. “If you don’t have your basic fundamentals down, it’s hard to move on to the next level. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to climb that ladder and be as successful as we can be.”

Maconaquah was 5-5 last season and finished fourth in the MIC but lost quarterback Matt Cox and leading rusher Philip Garnett. With player numbers in the 50s, Freije says everyone has been hard at work to prepare for 2006.

“We lost a good senior group, but I know our incoming seniors this year want to step up in their role and fill those shoes,” Freije said. “Their motto is ‘I want it all.’

“I’ve got a great staff. They’re getting the schemes across to the kids and they are catching on well to everything. The kids have worked really hard in the offseason to be successful. They want to win.”

Tipton

The search is on to replace Adam Moats, the Blue Devils’ leading rusher during Tipton’s 6-4 season in 2005. Coach Aaron Tolle says it might take more than one man for the job.

“I don’t know if we have one kid who can fill [Adam’s] shoes,” Tolle said. “We’re going to try and do it with more than one kid. We’ve got some talented kids there.”

Moat led the Blue Devils with 1,289 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2005. Two sure bets to see action with the football are Josh Frawley and Travis Crawford. They combined for 684 yards and 11 TDs a year ago. Taylor Maxey and Taylor Lineberry will also see action in the backfield.

“We may not have a 1,300-yard guy, but if we have four guys at 500 yards apiece, that’s better than 1,300,” said Tolle. “We’ll start with running-back-by-committee and see who the best is in the first half of the season.”

Phil Morgan is back on the Tipton coaching staff, working with both the offensive and defensive lines.

Tri-Central

The word around Trojans camp this season is leadership after a 3-7 record in 2005.

“Leadership is something we really worked hard on in the offseason, as far as teaching them what a leader is,” said coach Josh Edwards. “We lost 15 seniors last year, and if you consider upperclassmen to be leaders, we lost a lot of leadership.

“We’ve got some kids coming up in this senior class that are really good leaders. We don’t have real vocal leaders, but we have excellent, excellent leaders by example.”

More than just by example, Edwards wants to make everyone — coaches and players — more accountable this season.

“Something we’ve focused on are the two Es: to be an ‘encourager’ and to be an ‘enforcer,’” Edwards said. “That goes team-wide. That’s for coaching staff, that’s for freshmen through seniors. Encourage the guy next to you and enforce the things he’s not doing properly. Hopefully they’ve gained a little bit from it.”

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