Eagles sharpening up skill in Eupora

Staff Writer

It’s been a good summer for Eupora leading into their 2018 season and the first few days of fall practice have followed that same path.

The Eagles, led by fourth-year head coach Stephen Edwards, did well in 7-on-7 tournaments with their skilled players and had others that performed at camps around the southeast to get better. It’s all come back full circle with practices as they’re putting what they learned in the summer into motion for the fall.

“Attitude and effort has been there,” Edwards said of the first week of practice. “I’ll be glad when school gets back in session, so we can get everybody here, but overall we’ve had most of our kids here.”

Over half of the defense and half of the offense returns from last year’s 7-4 season. It was a bounce back year for the Eagles after having their first losing season in nearly 20 years in 2016. The team lost All-Area players Al Dumas and Tanner Knight, but they return some critical pieces and add more talent in the younger classifications.

It’s why there has been no need to spend much time on basic fundamentals or installations of scheme. The players returning already know the basics.

“For us, more than anything, it’s a matter of things like if we have to play a base defense, everybody needs to know what’s going on," Edwards said. "We want everybody on the same page. A lot of the stuff we’ve had and the players we’ve had is the same as last year so we don’t have a lot of install. We’re really trying to focus on what we’re trying to do.”

A big part of the smooth transition so far is Edwin Herard, who returns to quarterback after a year at running back. He’s also on the defensive side of the football again where things come natural for him.

As the quarterback and a senior, Herard sees himself as the leader on both sides of the football. He’s been holding players accountable during the first week, but like his coach thinks things are going smoothly.

“We’ve had some good days,” Herard said. “Everybody is committed and wants to come out here and get better.”

Because of several players like Herard being both experienced and able to play both sides of the football, it’s allowed an even keel among the offense and the defense.

Edwards hasn’t seen either swim ahead of the other to this point which is what he wants in his competitive practices each day. It’s allowed the team as a whole to stay constant.

“I think sometimes offense has been getting the better of the defense and vice versa,” Edwards said. “We’ve got seven starters coming back on each side so I think it’s about even. We are thin on our numbers so we have to be careful with how we rotate.”

The first opportunity to test out the early depth and the work put in by Edwards’ squad comes next Friday when Eupora hosts J.Z. George for a jamboree. It won’t be a game that Edwards particularly cares about from the win/loss column side of things and he said they won’t really game plan.

He mostly wants to see what his team looks like in a real game situation ahead of the season opener on August 17.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and that’s focusing on ourselves,” Edwards said. “We’re not worried about game planning for anyone next Friday night until we get ready to play Water Valley. We’re going to focus on our fundamentals.”