New I-L/MA head coach Jon Francis watches closely while his team takes part in drills last week in Meredith. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
August 20, 2012REGION – All coaches run preseason practices slightly different, though all share in the one goal of preparing their teams the best way they can for the arrival of a new season. That's no different for the Lakes Region high school football teams, as the sport was the first to open practice back on Aug. 8 and the trio of local teams are busy working hard in preparation of Saturday's preseason jamboree at Inter-Lakes High School, which kicks off at 10 a.m. on the turf field.
"Our numbers are up this year from what I understand," said new Gilford head coach Brad Archer. "We've got about 34 kids and hopefully a couple more when school starts."
Attracting numbers at Gilford can be a bit of a tricky situation, especially when you've got a nationally-recognized power in boys' soccer. While numbers dwindled a bit last year for the Eagles, Archer hopes his fresh blood and approach will help inject some life over at the Meadows.
"Gilford's been loaded with soccer for years, it's just one of those things," Archer explained. "But not everyone is a soccer player or built like a soccer player. You've got the big kids that are made for football. But when it comes down to it, you're going to get whatever you can and hope the numbers are going to be there for you. It's exciting to see the numbers that soccer gets and we're catching up, on the rise."
Winnisquam Regional head coach Pat Riberdy said his numbers were around 35 kids during preseason, down a bit from his usual 40. But the good news for the Bears coach is that his team didn't lose many players to graduation, meaning he's got a veteran club at his disposal this time around.
"So far all the coaches are impressed with what we see," Riberdy said. "We've got some devoted kids so far. After last year, we had a lot of time to talk about it and we all felt the same way that it wasn't the season we were used to. So far this year, the attitude and work structure have been outstanding. I've been grading the kids after each practice and the lowest has been a B-plus so far. I can't say I've had a bad practice during the first week to 10 days."
The machine that is the Inter-Lakes/Moultonboro football program saw its numbers rise to 54 this fall, up from 46 that dressed a year ago. Winning a state championship can do that, and the Lakers will need all hands on deck as they make the jump up to Division V. That 54 player total includes 11 from Moultonboro Academy.
"Things are going really well," said new I-L/MA coach Jon Francis. "We're kind of getting the cobwebs out of the way, back into it. But we're looking really good, I'm definitely impressed."
With the early part of preseason camp comes plenty of conditioning, something all three coaches stressed was an important aspect of preparing for a grueling season. For Archer, who spent the past 12 years on the Newfound Regional staff, his new squad has impressed early on as he installs a new system into place.
"These kids are really working hard," Archer explained. "We're working on offense, where we've got a couple different wrinkles than in the past but pretty similar. It's more of a smart, quick reading offense. If the other team does this, we do this…that kind of thing. Last year they ran a 4-4 defense, we put in a 3-5 this year. We're working on aggressiveness in addition to the conditioning to get us ready to go."
Riberdy wants his team to get back to the approach they've had in the past, when they had quite a bit of success before a bit of a down season in 2011.
"We want to be a well-conditioned team like we have been in the past," the Winnisquam coach said."So the first thing we've been focusing on is the conditioning, getting adjusted. You can get a lot of kids coming out that have been sitting around, not actively playing a sport during the summer."
Francis echoed that sentiment, though he's been pleased with how the Lakers have performed so far as many players were involved in the team's offseason conditioning program.
"The biggest thing for us early on is getting everyone organized and conditioning, conditioning, conditioning," he stated. "But we had that good core group of 25-30 guys over the summer and those guys really didn't miss a beat when we started conditioning out here."
All three teams will take part in the jamboree on Saturday, where all three will play one another in a scrimmage style game on the turf field at I-L. The format has worked well in the past to prepare the respective teams for what they hope will be a successful fall season.
"We're looking to get the basics down and get ready to roll," said Archer of the jamboree. "Right now I don't expect to win a championship tomorrow. As far as we're concerned, Farmington (Gilford's regular season opening game opponent) is the best team in the state. They're undefeated and un-scored upon. We'll see what we need to work on during the jamboree."
Riberdy also looks forward to seeing what his club can do against some of the other talent in the Lakes Region.
"It's awesome," he said of the jamboree. "You don't put the value on points scored or points allowed so much as how your kids are performing based on timing, penalties, nerves, etc. You don't have a total idea of some of the kids coming up and you like to see how this kid is going to react or how that kid is going to respond to a certain scenario."
Francis has seen the jamboree pay dividends for the Lakers in years past, and he anticipates the final tune-up before the regular season will be beneficial once again.
"The jamboree is huge," he explained. "The jamboree is really the only time you get to do game type situation things, a little more is on the line. It's a lot more like a real game. We gain a lot of experience from that and get a lot out of that. Pretty much when that jamboree happen, you know exactly where you're at going into the season."