By Rob Patrick
Fall football practice for high school and junior high teams officially got underway today around the state including at[more] Bryant. As mandated by the Arkansas Activities Association this year, teams will practice in helmets and shorts the first two days then add shoulder pads on Wednesday. Teams can spend no more than three hours on the practice field.
“You’re not really supposed to have any contact,” acknowledged Bryant Hornets head coach Paul Calley, who begins his 11th season in charge of the program. “We’re going to use those days as install days. We’re going to re-install our offense and defense, review and reinforce what we did in the spring.
“I don’t see a lot of new stuff going in,” he added. “There’s some things we may do just a little bit different.”
As for the first day, Calley mentioned, “We used today to lift and we put all our players through a circuit workout where we worked on open-field tackling, tackling in general, acceleration and deceleration and lateral movement in the open field. We worked on ball security. We worked on scooping and scoring. Stuff that all the players don’t always get a chance to work on. So the offensive linemen got to run the ball today and run through the ‘Blaster.’”
The Blaster is a new piece of equipment that Calley and his staff have worked into the stations designed to offer resistance to ball-carriers and blockers.
“They worked hard but they had a good time also,” the coach noted.
“Tomorrow we’ll start at 6:20 a.m., with position meetings then we’ll be on the field at 7 and we will go until 10 o’clock,” he continued.
That will be the case everyday before school starts on Aug. 20, except for a couple of days when there will be teacher in-service throughout the school district (Aug. 15-16). On those days, practice will be held in the evenings, starting at 5 p.m.
Along with offensive coordinator Lance Parker, a former Hornet quarterback, Calley added former Little Rock Episcopal Collegiate junior high head coach Dondre Harris as an assistant.
“He was an assistant the year before that at Barton under Coach Van Paschal,” Calley related. “Before that, he was at (Little Rock) Fair for a year and he was the head coach at Marvel when he was real young. He got thrust into that role and I remembered him from that because I thought he did an exceptional job being as he was the only coach on staff. They did pretty well.”
Harris will coach running backs, help with cornerbacks and serve as the special teams coordinator with each of the other coaches on the staff working on specific areas of special teams.
Harris and Parker join assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Steve Griffith, receivers coach Jason Hay, secondary coach John Wells and defensive line coach Brad Stroud who is back on the field after surgery for prostate cancer early in the summer.
Asked about his team’s summer work, Calley related, “We did things a little bit different this summer. We played 7 on 7 during June, right after spring football then kind of scaled back a bit. We continued to lift and condition but we did not do team camps this time. We had some plans made that fell through but we were able to work more individual offense with Coach Parker being here this summer. We got our offensive personnel together in the mornings and established the way we’re going to do things and the way we’re going to call plays, the method we use to get those plays in, relaying the plays to the players. It’s going to be different and it’s going to be, I think, very efficient, very helpful and it’s going to be very hard for the opponent to prepare for.
“We didn’t do a lot of defense this summer,” he related. “I’m a firm believer in having them fresh and excited about coming back rather than dreading coming back. That’s one thing I’ve always tried to steer clear of, the dread. And I felt like, last year, we did a little too much so we backed off. We’ve got plenty of time between now and Aug. 31 to do what we need to do to get ready to play a football game.”
The Hornets open the season at home against rival Conway. Their return to the South Conference will commence with the annual Salt Bowl against arch-rival Benton Sept. 21 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. A pre-season scrimmage is scheduled for Aug. 21 at Bryant Stadium against Little Rock Hall.
The Hornets are coming off back-to-back Central Conference championships. They’ve won at least eight games six years in a row and eight of the last 10 years. Under Calley, Bryant is 70-30-3.