Scrimmaging the big boys

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By Dwane Wilder

Rebuilding is a word that Dewayne Wells would like to eliminate from the Campbell County High School football vocabulary.


So, instead of scheduling an opponent of equal or lesser ability for a spring scrimmage, the Cougars’ head coach decided to see what his returning players could do against defending Class 3A state champion Knoxville Catholic.

Campbell County concluded nearly two weeks of spring practice by hosting the Irish on Thursday afternoon at L. Hope Dossett Stadium.

Although they were outscored four touchdowns to none, the Cougars went head-to-head with Catholic and gained some much-needed experience against top-notch competition heading into summer workouts.

“I don’t like saying (rebuilding) because it sounds like we don’t expect much when we really do,” said Wells, who has secured his legacy as the school’s all-time winningest football coach while leading Campbell County to three state playoff appearances over the past five seasons. Wells much prefers the word reloading, but, with 16 graduating seniors to replace there are vacated positions all over the field.

“We’re replacing our quarterback, three running backs, receivers and most of the secondary. We have only one linebacker returning,” said Wells.

“We had a lot of kids that haven’t played in game situations against a team the caliber of Catholic. They’ve got most of the players back from their state championship team. I didn’t want a feel-good scrimmage. We had to see what it takes to play at that level and what we need to work on.”

The Cougars turned the ball over with an interception on their first drive. Three plays later, Catholic scored its first touchdown. The Irish scored twice more on Campbell County’s first-team defense and got a late touchdown against the Cougars’ jayvee.

Arnie Meredith, a rising senior, and Tuffy Shoupes, a rising sophomore, took turns playing quarterback in Campbell County’s offense, which is modeled after Georgia Tech’s option attack. Neither had much success against Catholic’s defense, but that was to be expected.

“The decision-making at the quarterback position will improve. That’s just something that comes with repetition,” said Wells.

Despite giving up four scores, Campbell County defenders played well during the scrimmage. Brandon Kennedy, a rising junior, made a shoestring tackle to save a touchdown. Joe Peake, a rising sophomore, intercepted a pass.

“Some of the younger kids played defense pretty well,” said Wells.

“I wanted to see how they would perform under game situations. Their attitude has been great.”

Of the 55 players that participated in spring practice at Campbell County, 10 did not play in the Catholic scrimmage because of injuries.

All are expected to be in uniform when pre-season drills begin in late July. The Cougars will attend a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Camp, July 20-22, at Tennessee Tech.