The football offseason is winding down for Bossier Parish teams. The official start of preseason practice is Aug. 6.
The offseason began for most parish teams almost as soon as the 2017 season ended in November.
As usual, most teams have been working out during the summer. Activities have included lifting weights and competing in 7-on-7 games.
Some coaches gave their teams last week off, including Benton’s Reyolds Moore. But the Tigers are back at it this week.
The Tigers have some more 7-on-7 game scheduled and are playing in one more tournament in Gonzalez before getting into preseason mode.
“Summer’s been good,” Moore said. “June was actually a little bit slower than normal for us just because we typically do two 7-on-7 tournaments.
“We’ve got several 7-on-7 scrimmages in July and that tournament. We’re excited about that to give them a chance to kind of gear up again.
“Most coaches give everybody (last week) off, Usually when you come back it’s hard to get everybody going again right away. I think there’ll be some excitement moreso than usual knowing that really.”
Even though at first his team won’t be doing much different than it is already doing, Moore is looking forward to the official start of preseason practice.
“In three weeks we’re going to start going in the afternoons and get acclimated to the heat,” he said. “We’ll still be in shorts and helmets — just kind of start with special teams, kind of putting the official stamp on the start of football season. I think that’s one of those things that gives football coaches a kind of giddy feeling. I know I’ve described it before like a kid on Christmas morning.
“It’s that kind of deal you know where you get really excited about it. Kind of get that nervous feeling in your stomach that it’s right around the corner. You kind of want it to hurry up and get here.”
One of the main priorities for Benton in the offseason has been getting a quarterback ready to replace record-setter Garrett Hable, a four-year starter.
Moore said rising junior Ken Gay has taken most of the snaps with the first team with rising sophomore Clint Lasiter getting some as well.
Lasiter also has the potential to be a force on defense.
“He’s got a pretty aggressive mindset and I think he can add to our talent over there,” Moore said.
Moore is pleased with the way Gay has grasped the offense so far.
“Ken has done a really good job of getting command of the offense,” he said. “We’re still working with him on cutting down some of the mistakes. If he makes 30 throws, usually 28 or 29 of them are really good decisions. Or maybe he’s just off a little bit or whatever. But then he has that one really bad decision and he’s shown a lot of improvement through spring ball and 7-on-7, not just making better throws but really making better decisions.
“That’s kind of the biggest goal there. I’ve emphasized with him is that you don’t have to be anything that you’re not. Don’t worry about Garrett — a big shadow to fill — but don’t worry about that. You’re going to do different things, bring different things to the table. Just make sure you don’t make big mistakes. I don’t like to focus on negative things, just understanding that you can miss on a throw. You don’t have to be perfect. Just don’t throw it to the other guy.
Like Moore, Parkway second-year coach Neil May is pleased with the way the offseason has gone for his team.
“We’ve had a great offseason,” he said. “We’ve worked really, really hard. In the weightroom, we gained a lot of strength as a team.”
Parkway has plenty of experience returning. There were only five seniors among the starters in last year’s first-round Class 5A playoff loss to Barbe.
May and his staff have been working with about 95 varsity players and 35-40 incoming freshmen. They’ve worked out Monday through Thursday almost every week.
Rising senior Amani Larry returns at quarterback. He made first-team All-Parish last season as an athlete after replacing injured Justin Rogers in the second game.
Larry’s brother Gabe, a rising sophomore, has also been getting some looks at quarterback along with rising junior Tommy Cook.
“It’s looking like Amani is going to be the frontrunner right now,” May said. “He’s just the most experienced, veteran kid we have. Not that the other kids aren’t good quarterbacks, he just has that veteran presence about him, a little more calm and relaxed out there right now.
The Larry brothers are also outstanding baseball players and have split time between football and baseball this summer.
“They play in a lot of nationwide showcase type things,” May said. “They’re both great baseball players.”
One priority for May and his staff has been replacing running back Eric “EJ” Williams, a 1,000-yard rusher last season and a key player for the last three seasons.
May said three players could see significant action in the backfield this season — rising senior Caleb Shearin, rising sophomore Jamal Asberry and Alijah Barnett.
May said Shearin is “going to carry the ball a good bit. He’s a speed-type guy.”
Asberry could “potentially be the most talented back in Bossier City by the time he’s a senior,” May said. “He’s just a phenomenal talent and he’s going to get some carries this year.”
Haughton third-year coach Jason Brotherton has faced a similar challenge as May this offseason.
Two of his quarterbacks, rising junior C.J. McWilliams and rising sophomore Peyton Stovall are both outstanding baseball players. Like the Larry brothers, they’ve been dividing their time between the sports.
Brotherton said McWilliams, Stovall and rising senior Xander Morris will battle in the preseason for the right to replace graduated starter Cameron Townsend.
“All three could see action in the jamboree,” Brotherton said.
Brotherton isn’t complaining, but he said the offseason has been a challenge.
“It’s been hard getting everybody there, put it that way,” he said. “It’s been key players so it’s made it hard to have any continuity and build on anything.
“You take what you can get and get them there when you can, and they’re there when they can be. They miss a lot, but it’s just one of the things you deal with when you have kids that are really good at baseball. It’s hard to gain a lot of ground when the quarterbacks aren’t out there. That position just magnifies everything.”
McWilliams is valuable in more ways than one. He was the All-Parish return specialist last season.
Whomever gets the starting job will have an experienced receiver to throw to in rising junior Tristan Sweeney, a first-team All-Parish selection.
In fact, Brotherton is very high on the upcoming junior class, including running back Keyshawn Davis, the likely replacement for graduated 1,000-yard rusher Lavonta Gipson.
“There are a lot of good kids in that group,” he said. “I think seven of them started last year. We’re excited about them, and we’re going to start a lot of sophomores this year. At least three will start on defense when all is said and done. That’s a pretty good class for us, too.”
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org