Finding their footing has been the biggest task facing the Wyandotte Bears as they gear up for the 2017 season.
“There’s a lot of anxiety and we’re not quite sure of ourselves yet,” coach Brad Homer said. “We had those boys that were seniors who were pretty much the leaders, ran practice and knew how everything worked.
“These new kids are just kinda starting to step into their roles.”
Graduation took a heavy toll on a WHS team that reached the Class 2A quarterfinals.
Braxton Douthit was the co-offensive player of the year in District 2A-7.
Roberto Bravo, Zane Cutshaw, Tristan Frazier, Brandon Brown and Carson Loncarich all received major honors in 2A-7 and Clayton McCall, Devan McLoud, Sam Westerhouse and Dalton Newman all received all-district honors.
“We’ve got to have a little patience because we’re young, real young up front,” Homer said. “It will take some time for them to come along a little bit. We’re making gains and the kids are working at it. That’s all you can ask.”
The Bears have been working out at 3:15 p.m. daily.
They will continue that routine through the first day of school on Aug. 17.
“Like they say, the first day is the first day,” Homer said. “Yesterday (Tuesday) was a lot better. Hopefully we get better today, too.”
New Quapaw head coach Chris Cawyer said the players have been enthusiastic during two-a-day practice.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I haven’t had a bit of trouble having to get on them. They have a lot of energy every practice that we’ve had.
The Wildcats practiced at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday then cut back to an 8 p.m. session on Thursday and they will practice at 5 p.m. Friday.
“They are still going hard,” Cawyer said. “That is all you can ask from them is effort. If they give us a great effort like they have been doing, hopefully it’s going to turn into winning a few football games.”
Because of the change in the coaching staff, players have to soak up a lot of new things.
“We are putting a lot of new stuff in,” Cawyer said. “We are throwing a whole lot of things at them, a whole new offense and defensively we’re doing different things.”
James Dawson is calling the defensive plays and “he’s doing different things with them.”
Friday will be the first practice for the Cats in full gear.
“Once we get pads on, we will find out who the real men are,” Cawyer said. “That will help when we do that Friday.”
OSSAA regulations call for teams to spend the first four days in only helmets and shorts.
“We’re going to go two hours Friday then come in Monday and be ready to go at 3 o’clock,” Cawyer said. “We’re not going to practice Monday. They haven’t had two-a-days here for a while.”
Coach Ryan Gleaves expects to have 19 players once school starts.
“We still haven’t had everybody there, but that’s the nature of a small school,” Gleaves said. “Kids have to work and can’t make it in. We haven’t had the full squad there yet. That’s frustrating, but it’s something you have to deal with.”
He said there have been 13 or 14 on hand every day.
“You have a solid 10 to 12 that have been there every day and then the others seem like it’s a different kid,” Gleaves said.
The Wildcats came one point within qualifying for the Class C playoffs.
Regent Prep cranked out a 49-48 win over Welch in the 2016 finale.
The 4-6 record was the best for the Cats since 2012. They ended a 24-game losing streak in Week 3.
“We have a lot of kids who will be seniors who have started for several years,” Gleaves said. “They went through some of the rough times. We were so close last year. It left a bitter taste in their mouth. Now we’re just focusing on that little bit extra of effort. We came up a point short. If we’d had a little bit extra effort here or a little bit extra there, we could have been in the playoffs.”
Gleaves said the morning practice Tuesday “might have been one of the best practices we’ve had since I’ve been at Welch. The kids’ effort was good. It really stands out.”