Pointing out the imperfections

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Cougars face tough competition in this season’s scrimmages

By Chris Cannon

KNOXVILLE—Campbell County took on one of the state’s toughest lines on Friday night, and head coach Justin Price said he was pleased with the outcome.

The Cougars traveled to Webb School of Knoxville to face off with the Spartans and the Grace Christian Academy Rams on Friday in the team’s first full-pad scrimmage.

Both schools are private, lending to bigger players.

“I just want our kids to see that top level of football,” Price said. “We’re at a point in our program where we don’t need to get confidence in scrimmages. When I first was here, we would always scrimmage teams I felt like we could have some success with. Now, I think it’s good for our kids to be challenged at as high a level as they can.”

Senior receiver Preston Miller said the team looked good against that tougher competition.

While he said defense needed a little work, offense looked really strong.

The Cougars scored twice in 10 plays.

“That’s good against a defense like that,” Miller said. “It’s a good momentum boost. It gets our head up, because we did pretty good against them. It gives us that confidence for our first game against Cumberland Gap.”

However, Price said he wasn’t just looking toward what Campbell County could do better.

He wanted to point out their imperfections — finding out exactly what they need to work on.

“We try to go against the top competition to see where we stand, not just in our district, but in the whole state,” he said. “Anytime you go into a scrimmage, it’s really to find out what you can’t do. We tried different things and experimented a little bit on both sides of the ball to test our players and challenge them on what they do so well and what they don’t do so well.”

Playing at such a high level of competition pointed out to some players — such as linebacker Austin Raines and center Patrick Wright — that the defense still has some holes to fill.

However, they both said they’ll be ready by the beginning of the season.

“We got to finally get some contact in, but we’re not where we need to be,” Raines said. “We had a lot of missed tackles. Even me. I didn’t do so well. All we can do is get better, and those scrimmages are really helping us. It makes it really physical for us — stronger guys. It’s more competition, and it really makes us compete against them.”

Wright agreed. He said those challenges only make the young defense gain experience in a fast way.

“It’s one of those things that if someone is bigger than you, you have to play lower and faster,” he said. “You have to use your strengths against theirs. It’s a matter of being focused every play and knowing your assignments. It’s those things in football that you’ve got to learn — fundamentals, tackling, wrapping up.”

Price said those assignments are what the team needed to look at.

He said the team is still looking for that leader who can step up, shed blocks and make the tackles.

However, he was pleased to see the effort.

“Defensively, I thought we played with great effort, but we didn’t play with great discipline,” Price said. “Especially when you go against a Wing-T like they ran, it challenges you mentally to be in the right spots. We’ll continue to work on that discipline. I’m not concerned about our effort.”

On Friday night, Campbell County will again take on another tough opponent.

The Cougars will face off with Christian Academy of Knoxville at home beginning at 6 p.m. If heavy rains occur on Thursday or Friday, the game has the potential to be moved to CAK for their turf field.

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While Webb and Grace Christian pushed the linemen, CAK will make other parts of the defense shine.

“CAK is going to be a different type of ballgame,” Price said. “They’ll spread it around and throw it. That’ll force our secondary to be disciplined with their eyes and their technique.”

On Tuesday night, Campbell County will scrimmage the Falcons at Fulton. That game is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m.