Falcons opening week of spring football practice
By Drake Horton
While the head coach may be new, the steps to building a strong football team are still the same.
Under new head coach John Jones, who was previously the head coach at Sumter High School, the Darlington Falcons kicked off its annual spring football practice this past week and Jones is already excited by what he is seeing.
“I’ve been very, very pleasantly surprised,” Jones said on the effort and attitude in the first week of spring practice. “We have a great group of young men. Those guys are out there busting their hump, working as hard as anybody anywhere I’ve ever been.”
So far, the transition from the previous head coach Will Lampkin to Jones is going well in the three days of “just helmets and shorts” practice that the team has had so far.
One of the biggest things that the players have been able to work on is learning the new concepts, terminology, and overall system that Jones will implement as it will be different from what Lampkin ran over the past four seasons.
“I think they have done a great job of picking it up,” Jones said on how the players have done in learning the basics of the offensive and defensive systems in the opening week. “They seem to be catching on to what we want. It’s a process and you have to stay the course. We have to get them to understand that not only as coaches, but as players we have to stay the course the whole time and its building blocks a little bit at a time. You can’t run before you crawl, and that is where we are at right now.”
Learning the system and making sure that both the coaches and players are on the same page was a big focal point over the first three days of spring practice as Jones believe that those principles will be key in the Falcons having a successful season.
“The biggest thing for us is that on both sides of the ball we want to be as schematically sound as we can be and as fundamentally good as we can be,” Jones said, discussing what the team has focused on this week and will continue to focus on for the duration of spring practice.
With this being Jones’s first year as Darlington’s head coach this first week of spring practice has been like an audition for all new and returning football players as virtually all positions are open.
“Everybody is getting a shot at both sides of the ball,” Jones, discussing how open all the positions are at the moment, said. “We haven’t narrowed it down as to who is exactly going to be playing what yet and we are trying to get our schemes installed, our systems and try to find out who fits and what we can do to make it easier for them to play fast and play as well as they can play.”
A huge positive that Jones saw on Tuesday, May, 5, the first day of spring practice was the turnout of players that are interested in playing football for the Falcons this season.
A big transition for Jones, who before taking this job was an assistant at West Florence and then a head coach at Sumter, both which is 4A, is learning to not have as many players to choose from as Darlington is 3A. But if the first day of practice was any indication of what is to come, Jones and the rest of his staff may not have to worry about having too many players playing both sides of the football.
“We are really excited about the number of players that we got out right now,” Jones said on the overall participation in the opening week. “We had 98 kids come out for football on Tuesday (May 5) and we’re hoping that we can keep those numbers and if things go well and if we can keep that many kids around we’ll be able to play a little bit of two-platoon football, but right now everybody is going to play on both sides of the ball.”
While spring practice – and especially the first week of spring practice – where the players are just going over the basic fundamentals, is in no way to be used to judge how a team is going to be in the upcoming season, it looks like Darlington does have some glimmering hope of making it back to playoffs.
Will the large number of players participating and the seemingly easy transition from one coach to another continue to happen as spring practice continues? Only time will tell, but right now things look promising for the Falcons.