Tough test

Published 10:08 am Saturday, August 17, 2013

Northview players, above, battle for the ball in mid-air Thursday during the Chiefs practice. Chiefs’ players, below, participate in a 7-on-7 passing drill at practice. The Chiefs spent the last week in pads preparing for the Kickoff Classic against Panama City’s Bay High School at 7 p.m. Friday in Bratt.

Northview players, above, battle for the ball in mid-air Thursday during the Chiefs practice. 

The Northview High School Chiefs are less than a week away from their kickoff classic against Bay High School, but they still have a long way to go, said head coach Sid Wheatley.

“We’re obviously not where we need to be,” Wheatley said “They’re working hard.”

Wheatley said that while he likes his team’s intensity, the Chiefs need to get more mentally tough and cut down on mental mistakes.

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The team has returning talent, but has some youth too, especially on the offensive line with “nobody having taken a varsity snap,” Wheatley said. The Chiefs are the defending state champion in Florida’s Class 1A.

The youth on the line could have a negative impact on the passing game and first-year starting quarterback Daulton Tullis. Wheatley said that unit has worked on timing and quicker release of the football.

“It’s quick reads and quick release,” Wheatley said.

This year, Neino Robinson will also be featured at the quarterback position in different situations. Wheatley said the team would use him in packages at quarterback.

On the other side of the ball, there is good team speed, but also a lot of new faces, Wheatley said. Some returning talent on the defensive side includes LaQuan Thomas, Jeffrey Taylor and Hunter Sharouse. A missing link this year will be Dalton Daniel, who will be recovering from a knee injury for the “majority of the season.”

The secondary will be a strength for the Chiefs, with Robinson, Brannon Freeman and Kameron Newsome all returning.

While the team might have some youth and inexperience, the Chiefs’ coaching staff does not. There will be only one new face roaming the sidelines at Northview, with Ken Reda taking over as the new offensive line coach. Reda has previously coached in Mississippi.

Next Friday’s preseason contest in Bratt against Bay, a 5A school, will prepare the Chiefs well for the regular season and a state title defense. Northview, in Class 1A, will face bigger schools in Walton, Choctawhatchee and Marianna. In addition, Northview will face an improved slate of teams in their district, including Baker, Jay, Freeport and Chipley.

“I don’t know who made our schedule,” Wheatley said. “There are no easy games.”