Their season may be in question, but the Newberry football teams are blocking that out and tackling practice with the intent to win.
Over the past couple of weeks, players and coaches have come together to begin summer workouts. It’s a common tradition used to keep kids in shape over the summer and get them ready for the upcoming football season. This year is obviously different. With the future of fall sports still up in the air, nobody knows what’s next. All they can do is get ready.
“Our turnout has been fantastic,” said Varsity Head Coach Joe Austin. The Michigan High School Hall of Famer will be in his third season as head coach of the Indians this coming season. He has helped the Indians rebuild the program and make the transition from 11-man to 8-man football. He says, “We just want to win the day, baby! That’s what I keep telling these guys. Don’t worry about what we don’t know and can’t control. What we can do is keep showing up. If we do that, we are going to get better just by being here.”
The workouts are all voluntary, and anyone who shows up must be temperature checked and screened for COVID related symptoms. The team has been meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays and has attracted between 15-20 participants each time.
It’s not as easy as just showing up. Assistant coaches Zach Clickner and Rudy Mendoza, both Newberry grads who played for the Indians, and former Marines, know how to make the kids work.
Players are split up into position groups, which keeps low numbers of players working directly with each other. The coaches have split the groups into five or six different stations and rotates everyone around. Weighted ropes, cone and agility drills, sprints, shuffles, and even a good old fashioned jog around the field are just some of the intense workouts the players are being pushed through.
One of the days each week is dedicated to weightlifting behind the high school. Bench press, incline bench, squats, deadlifts, and clean and jerks are all a part of the process. The team then heads to the field for agility and conditioning. “The kids are really enjoying it. We haven’t had this kind of response in the first two years. This group likes to work. I think we are going to be tough, that’s for sure,” said Austin.
The group has been almost an even split between JV and Varsity age players. Liam Shanley, Eric Edwards, Christian Linhart, Johnny Nutkins, and Joey Harris have emerged as leaders, not just vocally, but also by example for the varsity.
At the JV level, expectations are high. The last time this group played together, as 7th and 8th graders, they went undefeated. This year’s freshmen also come in after a 4-2 record last season and have a year of 8-man experience under their belt as well, after the middle school program made the switch to 8-man football last season. Ethan Salter, Brien Nelson, Ethan Stillson, and Liam Nalette are a few of the names who will be looking to lead the JV team this fall.
“The program is really in good shape,” Assistant Coach Zach Clickner said. “The numbers are up, and the time is now I think for us to make some kind of run. I expect us to be very competitive at both the JV and Varsity levels. We have a nice little window here with some good athletes coming up. I like what I see so far.”
The Indians plan to continue working out throughout the summer and are preparing as if they will play this fall.
“We have to be ready,” Clickner said. “We are going about our business as if we are going to play. So that’s how we will prepare. My gut tells me we’ll play. So that’s where the focus is. Getting better each day so when we hit the season we are ready to go!”
The Indians are scheduled to open up fall practice August 10. The scheduled season start date is the weekend of August 27.