By DANNY P. SMITH
MATHISTON – The East Webster Wolverines had handed out football equipment and were looking forward to a productive spring practice in Cumberland.
Even though the baseball team was in the playoffs and the football team was going to be short in numbers, new East Webster head coach Doug Wilson was anxious to get to work.
The Wolverines hosted a junior high jamboree on April 26, then Wilson and his staff shut the doors, locked up the field house and were prepared to start practice the next day.
On the morning of April 27, those plans were altered drastically when a tornado tore through East Webster's campus.
Because of the damage, the Wolverines were unable to hold spring practice and school operations were moved to the former campus of Wood Junior College.
East Webster may not have been able to hold spring practice, but Wilson was determined to put the team through some sort of summer workouts and for him, that started with weight training.
"That was the first thing I wanted," Wilson said. "I wanted these kids to be lifting before they left here this summer and to get as normal in a routine as we can.
"We didn't want them thinking we don't have a weight room so we're not going to have to do a whole lot this summer. We wanted to make sure they saw it and actually got in there and sweated."
With the help of the community and many volunteers, Wilson said the weight room became a reality.
It took moving locations a couple of times before the Wolverines found a home at the Wood Junior campus in Mathiston.
Now a building is being prepared for the junior high program.
"We're going to have 60 (in junior high)," Wilson said. "We had two big 7th and 8th grade classes and we've got to get them a place. Hopefully, we'll get that by Friday, then we've got to focus on a place to practice. If we had to start right now, that would be at East Webster elementary."
Through all of the adversity following the storm, Wilson has been impressed with the way the team and community has rallied together.
He said the ability of the softball and baseball teams to advance deep into the Class 2A playoffs helped matters greatly.
"The softball team reaching the state championship series was unreal with the situation we were in," Wilson said. "Those girls are like the boys as far as being hard-working, blue-collar type."
With the weight room operational, East Webster's football squad is lifting and running twice a week.
Wilson is trying to work around basketball and baseball schedules in June, but said in July it would be different.
"There's a lot going on right now," Wilson said. "Pretty much all of our skill guys are at a (basketball) camp right now and coach Corey (Stidham) does a great job with them. Some are (playing basketball at the Starkville Sportsplex) twice a week and some even play baseball so in June we're trying to get two days out of them.
"In July, they are ours."
Wilson said he's the kind of coach that has always worked like he's behind schedule. With the setback caused by the storm, there's more reason for Wilson to feel that way.
"If I was at (the Cumberland campus) right now, I'd probably feel just as behind because of losing those great players," Wilson said. "We lost some of the best kids we've had here in 10 years as far as working as a team on both sides of the ball. It's going to be different, but it's going to be great and we're looking forward to it."
Wilson said the Wolverines plan to participate in a 7-on-7 camp at Vardaman on June 18.