Blue Devils begin hitting

Published 10:10 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Escambia County Blue Devils took the field in full pads on Monday and will work for the next three weeks to prepare for a game against Daphne.|File Photo

With three days of conditioning out of the way, the Escambia County Blue Devils can now turn their attention to practicing in full gear and preparing for a spring game against a premiere football program on May 21.

Beginning last Wednesday, the Blue Devils went to work to make sure they were ready for practice in helmets and pads and to nail down specific techniques.

Aside from the hard work, the excitement of being back on the field held a strong presence, according to Blue Devils head coach Mark Heaton.

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“It all went really well,’’ he said. “The kids and and coaches were just excited to be back out there. There’s a lot of excitement in the air and the intensity and enthusiasm were really high for the first three days.”

A priority of Heaton and his staff during the last year has been to increase the pride and ownership that their players have for their team.

As his second spring training with the Blue Devils gets into full swing, Heaton is aware of that taking place.

“A lot of our guys have made tremendous strides,” he said. “They are really grasping the leadership roles, which is the thing that stuck out to us the most. The coaches recognize that these guys are trying to develop some ownership in this program.”

The leadership that was seen by the coaching staff gives them hope that there team will continue to improve.

For Heaton, the intensity that came from seeing his players take pride in what they were doing shows improvements being made.

“One thing that is constant in football whether you have pads on or don’t is the intensity level,” he said. “Those are things that will carry over this week as we practice in pads. If you keep that intensity level high and have a great attitude every day when you come to work, then you are going to get better. That’s the promising thing that we saw last week that should carry over into this week.”

With the pads going on this week, the Blue Devils will learn a lot about their offense and defense, but even more about how practices will be run.

Heaton said that he wants his team to “grasp” how everything will be run beginning with these practices and concluding with work in the fall.

“Our goal this week is to really help them grasp the organizational structure of the practices and to get them to the point where they are accustomed to it and they can learn,” he said. “I think with everyone including the coaching staff being in this program for a year that things will be more productive for us. That’s what we want to see is productivity and improvement each day.”

The Blue Devils work during the next three weeks of practices will end with a match up against the defending Class 6A state champion Daphne Trojans in Daphne.

The game scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 21 will pit the Blue Devils against their toughest opponent to date under Heaton.

“That’s going to be big for our guys,” he said. “We want to get a lot of guys reps, so we can see who will be our top guys in those top two slots across the board. That game is going to tell us a lot. Daphne is a great program with a great staff and great players. To be able to line up against them is going to answer questions for us. To be the best, you have to play the best.”