New York —
It sounded like a football version of Abbott and Costello who’s-on-first, but Devontay Bell wasn’t trying to be funny. He just wanted to be honest.
“This was the best, the best last first day of high school football for me,’’ said Bell, who was as excited as anyone to see two-days arrive Monday. “The best,’’ he said again.
He was busting out with his words. He wanted everyone to know just how good it felt, this first day of practice of his senior year — literally the first day of his last season.
Bell, who suffered an ACL injury during the third game last year, probably was more anxious than anyone at Corsicana High to see a new season begin.
But he wasn’t alone.
Corsicana’s kids, who would like to forget last year’s 4-7 season, have a new coach in Steve Hoffman and Monday was a whole new ball game at Tiger Stadium.
“It was different, excitingly different,’’ senior linebacker Brody Usery said. “It’s a whole new atmosphere around the fieldhouse and on the field. It was more upbeat, more fast-paced tempo.’’
From the early moments of practice (the kids were on the field just before 7 a.m.) voices were loud and crisp and the players took notice.
“I am excited,’’ Usery said. “I really liked the upbeat tempo. Everyone was hyped. It’s exciting having change.’’
Nobody talked about being 4-7.
“It didn’t feel like 4-7 on the field today,’’ said Chris Jones, a senior who has started the last 26 games at center for the Tigers. “It felt nothing like 4-7. It felt like undefeated.’’
It could have been chaos. New coach, new system, learning from scratch...
Instead, it was fast-paced and full of energy.
“Nobody was walking around. Everybody was moving, everybody,’’ Bell said. “You had players working. Nobody was going through the motions It wasn’t like last year.’’
Jones said he felt it.
“It just feels different. It had a high tempo. I liked the (fast) tempo,’’ he said. “Everybody was into it. It wasn’t just the leaders trying to move everything along, it was everybody.’’
The drills and workouts just moved faster, and even when the kids had to go from one end of the field to the other for a new drill, they moved quickly.
“It seemed like everybody was more alert,’’ Jones said. “There wasn’t as much playing around. It seems like everybody wants to win.’’
And they want to learn the new system — and learn it fast.
“With everything being new it’s a struggle,’’ Usery said. “But it’s worth the fight.’’
Not only is Hoffman going to pick up the pace on offense by running a hybrid offense that’s part spread and part Wing-T, but he runs a 4-3 defense, instead of the 3-4 scheme Corsicana ran last year.
“We were able to implement some of our offense in the spring,’’ said Hoffman, who didn’t get hired until April. “But defensively, we’re behind. It’s tough to do both and we had to choose because we (didn’t have a real offseason) and we went with the offense because the offense usually takes a little longer to come along. We’ve got some kids we feel will be pretty good (on defense).’’
Hoffman was smiling at the end of practice and saying how good he felt about the first day. There were 102 kids on the field, and Hoffman believes he will have 115 to 120 on his varsity and JV teams. The freshmen worked out Monday afternoon.
Hoffman, who spent the last six years at Class 5A Del Rio, knew the first day would be new for everybody, and praised the way his kids responded.
“It was a good day,’’ he said. “We’re doing a lot of teaching. We’ve just got to be patient. Being somewhere for six years the kids understand how to do things. So for me I have to be patient and not do too much too soon.’’
Bell, who will be the key on offense and also play cornerback from time to time, couldn’t wait to get back on the field.
“On Sunday time didn’t move,’’ he said. “I kept looking at the time. I’ve never seen it move so slow. I couldn’t sleep on Sunday night. I went to sleep at 3:37 and I woke up at 4:30, but I’m not tired (after the two-a-days). It felt good to have it finally start.’’