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A totally new era of East Webster football is officially underway.
On the heels of last season's Region 2-2A championship campaign, the Wolverines began fall workouts Monday with change all around.
From the man in charge, new head coach Doug Wilson, to the practice grounds themselves at East Webster Elementary in Mathiston which are serving as the team's home away from home while the East Webster High campus in Cumberland rebuilds from April's destructive storm, things certainly look a lot different around Wolverines camp from this time a year ago.
Yet Wilson, who took over the program from Jimmy Carden, said his first-ever squad is taking things in stride.
"Everybody's attitudes are real good," said Wilson. "It's like nothing is unusual. It's just like we're still in Cumberland."
Part of the reason for such optimism is the infusion of fresh talent on the East Webster roster.
Gone are familiar names such as Ledrick Patterson and Miguel Graham.
Filling the place of Patterson, Graham and the other talented East Webster seniors from a year ago are many Wolverines who will be getting their first true taste of the high school game.
"There's a lot of young kids that's getting to line up in starting positions and they're real excited about that," said Wilson. "Guys who didn't get to play a lot last year. So we're young. Just have a lot of young kids."
Wilson hopes to see his team's youth mature over the course of the coming weeks ahead of East Webster's season opener at home on August 19 against Vardaman.
"That'll be a real tough one," said Wilson. "Vardaman is good. We played them a couple of times in 7-on-7 this summer and they are very talented."
Expectations high for West Oktibbeha
Led by standout quarterback Von Smith, West Oktibbeha narrowly missed the playoffs in 2010.
Though the Timberwolves fell short of the postseason, West Oktibbeha head coach Adam Lowrey says his club's shortcoming has only gone to fuel his players' expectations for 2011 as the team opened up fall practice on Monday.
"We feel like what we've accomplished up to this point is nothing in regards to where we want to go," said Lowrey. "It's only the scraps and we're wanting to go for the big dish."
Lowrey and the Timberwolves begin reaching for their goals on August 19 when the regular season begins on the road at University Christian in Flowood.
Until then however, Lowrey says his club still has plenty of work to do to ensure a special 2011 awaits.
"We're really focusing hard on being physical," said Lowrey. "That and just being fundamentally disciplined. We're really focusing on fundamentals this year. We're spending a great deal of time on that."
Brooks begins second year at East Oktibbeha
A little familiarity goes a long way.
Last season, Randy Brooks was thrust into the position of East Oktibbeha head football coach just weeks before the campaign kicked off.
This go around, Brooks and the Titans have had plenty of time to prepare and the Titans' second-year leader says that fact was apparent when fall practice began on Monday.
"It's a little more laid back this year," said Brooks. "I had spring with the kids and the kids know what to expect and things like that."
Brooks also led the Titans through summer 7-on-7 camps that served to increase the confidence amongst the East Oktibbeha squad.
With a mixture of that confidence and this year's comfort factor, Brooks anticipates his Titans will be ready to go when the season kicks off.
"Things are starting to click for the guys and they are all starting to come around," said Brooks. "We're not as far behind right now as we were at this point last year. Everyone just knows what to expect."
Roby set to guide Eupora
Coming into last season, the Eupora Eagles were relying on a young, inexperienced Jamal Roby to lead them at quarterback.
Roby proved he was more than up for the challenge, as the then-sophomore guided the Eagles to an 8-4 record in 2010 before bowing out in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.
Such a performance may have set the bar high for what Roby can do in his junior season as Eupora's signal-caller, but still Eagles head coach Junior Graham says he's glad fall practice began Monday with his club solidly settled on a quarterback.
"This time last year, our quarterback had absolutely no experience and we really had no one backing him up," said Graham. "This year, (Roby) comes in with a year under his belt and an adequate backup behind him.
"Plus, we've got some depth and got some receivers back. Because of injuries last year (allowing backups the opportunity to play), we've got some depth this fall that we may not have had if things hadn't worked out the way they did last year."
Couple that with the now-veteran play of Roby and Graham says his club is full of confidence as the Eagles prepare for their August 19 season opener at home against French Camp.
"(Roby) has grown a lot physically and mentally," said Graham. "He's got a lot more confidence going into this fall as compared to what he had last year and confidence is extremely important."
Ackerman ready to rebound
Having lost their final 10 games of the 2010 season, it would have probably been easy for the Ackerman Indians to begin fall practice Monday with plenty of self-doubt.
Yet Ackerman head coach Adam Dillinger said he couldn't have been more pleased with how his Indians kicked off preparations for their 2011 campaign.
"We had a really good first day and it was hot, but our kids did well even through the heat," said Dillinger. "Nobody was dragging or pouting. We didn't let the heat beat us and I was really pleased with the kids' effort."
Dillinger says Ackerman's work ethic is the first step towards building the Indians' road back to success.
With a season-opening home game against Noxapater on August 19, Dillinger hopes to see his team continue putting in maximum effort to put the Indians on the path to a bounce-back year, a journey that begins with this opening week of workouts.
"Right now, we're just coming in and working our basics and making sure we get back to how we ended things in the spring," said Dillinger. "It's a time of learning for us right now. You can't put on the pads. You can't hit. So you have to make the most of the things you can do."