The Hermann Bearcat football team scrimmaged their way through last weekend’s Jamboree, held at the South Callaway R-2 High School in Mokane.
It was the perfect weather for a Missouri football jamboree. Low humidity. A light breeze out of the South. The players responded to the spectacle on the field before them in their blue, black and white uniforms and cooler evening air, to look sharp and actually have a good time.
“Overall it was a good night,” said Head Coach Andy Emmons.” “We came out healthy and got a lot of younger guys [some] playing time.
There are 38 players on the squad this year. The core of the team is a returning group of 10 seniors, that the coach says have been devoted to playing football throughout their high school years. Most of them started their sophomore year.
“Anytime you’ve got a group like that, with big senior numbers devoted to the sport, you’re looking for good things to happen,” he said.
Another strength that might not be apparent to those observing the team is that this team is “coachable.” According to Coach Emmons, they listen and they’ll try.
“They do a really good job of trying to learn and grow from it,” he said.
The players have been spending quite a few hours reviewing games and practices, scanning for weakness and scouting the opportunities for improvement. The coach is trying something new this year—grading performance.
“We’re going to grade them and if they don’t make the grade, we can’t afford to have them see the field,” he explained. “Hopefully, they’ll make the grade because I’ll like to see them play a lot.”
He recognizes the the team’s attitude is good right now, pointing out that the seniors set the tone for the team, so leadership is crucial.
“I’ve been pleased with what they’ve done so far,” he assessed.
“We’re going to run the ball [this year],” he said. “We’re going to be an option football team. “With us sitting with enrollment in the low 300’s, the next smallest school has 150 to 200 more kids, so typically they are going to have more athletes on the field.”
He feels Hermann has decent varsity depth.
“There are a lot of younger guys who can challenge older guys for playing time and that's great.”
Coach Emmons says the Bearcats will need to control the football because herein lies the opportunities to beat schools that might have larger teams.
“That means running a sound defense taking care of the football to prevent turnovers and eliminating those mistakes that lead to penalties.
With a smaller team, player health becomes a focus as well.
“You try to keep them as healthy as you can, but at the same time, you’ve got to prepare them for practice,” he said.
He noted that some drills can be done with limited contact, but the team has to be ready to be physical and you only get that by being hit.
“A lot of what you do in practice can help to avoid injuries, but sometimes it’s just bad luck,” he says.
We’re typically going to be a three-front defense,” the coach explains. “It varies, based off of what we’ll see and do in the secondary.
Height, as well as speed can be a big advantage for defensive backs. The Bearcats will play some passing teams and they will need to make the plays in spite of the fact the Bearcats don’t have secondary height.
“When the ball is in the air, they’re going to have to go get it,” he says.
A good pass rush will help contain the passing threat and if the defensive linemen and linebackers can force some bad throws, maybe those will be turnover opportunities.
“I feel like our guys have done a good job of covering—they’re in the right spots, but it will just come down to making plays,” he reasons.
The defense changed their audibles this year “just to mix things up.”
“We’re putting more focus on a couple different zone concepts, but we’re still going to run a lot of man [to-man],” he says. “We’re trying to get a new look and feel to everything and just have a more efficient way of calling our defense.”
Coach Emmons has a simple winning philosophy focus. When asked about some of the other teams the Bearcats will face, he says whether they win or lose, it will depend on how they play the game—not how well the other team plays.
The offense we run is about as simple as you can make it,” he explains. “It is important [however] to have a counter to whatever your base plays are, such as some other option off of those plays.”
There will be times when the Bearcats will need to throw the ball to loosen up the middle if the running game up the middle gets shut down. The team has Carter Hemeyer, Trent Anderson, Brennan Knipping, Holden Ash, Marcus Eldringhoff, Keegan Head and Nick Waechter to receive the ball in short slant passes or launching it down the sidelines.
“One of our better receivers has been Trent Gleeson out of the backfield and Brody Fredrick will have some fullback time, also,” he said.
Jon Utley and Luke Bader are returning tackles. The big anchors inside will be six-foot, 272 lbs. All-Conference lineman Sam Hurst and Collin Heather, at 6-foot and 273 lbs. Max Krull and Xavier Woldanski will rotate into the line as needed. Coach Emmons has also been impressed with junior James Hagedorn. At six-feet tall and 180 lbs., he’s physical and should see some consistent playing time as well.
The Bearcats opening game this Friday is at 7 p.m., at Memorial Stadium, against the Montgomery County Wildcats, one of the featured teams at the Jamboree.
“They’ve got a really good quarterback and a tough receiver (Bailey Sontag) that we’re going to have to figure out how to guard,” said the coach. “He’s very talented and their quarterback throws a good ball.”
He said the team is ready. They have been conditioning less, but trading that time to focus more on the fundamentals. There are only sixteen practices before the first game, so the coach says it’s a balancing act to know where to place that time to get ready.