HENDERSONVILLE - Unfamiliar territory will be the theme for the Pope John Paul II football team this preseason as the Knights are tasked with replacing 22 starters from last year's squad.
Essentially, no one on the football field has much, or any, varsity experience. However, that little stat has coaches, players, and staff anxious for the start of the season as new players look to fill big shoes and become more of a household name in the Division II community.
The Knights got the first taste of competition Tuesday, July 11 hosting Class AA's Westmoreland High School in Hendersonville. The Knights and Eagles traded possessions after 10 plays on offense and did so for more than an hour with both first- and second-team members. Toward the end of the two-hour scrimmage, the teams headed into the red zone where they practiced situational football inside the opponents 10-yard line.
"Being the first 7v7 opportunity of the summer we are preaching effort," head coach Justin Geisinger said, referencing what he wanted to get out of the team's first competition following the two-week dead period. "We want to see great effort, playing technically sound, guys knowing their assignments and guys flying around. We are a very young team this year that graduated 22 starters from last year, so we trying to establish an identity with these young kids and develop confidence in them and that comes with time."
Time, unfortunately, is not on the side of this team or coaching staff. With a little more than a month until the start of the football season, the coaching staff realizes time is of the essence.
"A lot of these guys don't have varsity reps and I think you seen that today with some things," Geisinger said. "Putting those guys in as many situations as possible, that's why you are seeing us do more this summer than we typically would with a veteran team. We want to get as many reps as possible, we have a lot, a lot of holes open on both sides of the ball and we need guys to fill those holes."
Coach Geisinger continued on what his team needs to do in the limited amount of weeks they have until they travel to Whites Creek for week one action.
"I don't think you ever have enough time, even though the TSSAA has expanded the rules to where you have more than you used to but I don't think you'll ever have enough time," he said describing team's preparation. "All we can do as coaches is prepare our guys to be in the best position to feel confident in what they are doing, and feel confident in the plan. This is a very coachable group of kids which is always great to have. We had a great June, they want to be good and they want to compete."