Blue Ridge will be looking to avenge a bitter playoff loss to Belton-Honea Path this season, after wrapping up spring practices last week.The Tigers lost a few key seniors, but return with a core group of starters in pursuit of a playoff run in 2014.

Tigers assess new squad, prepare for fall

Billy Cannada's picture
Spring football
Billy Cannada

Warmer weather and longer days means football is back for several area high school teams.

For the Blue Ridge Tigers, the spring was a chance to assess a new team and get a head start on 2014 practices.

“Overall, I thought spring practices went pretty good,” Blue Ridge head coach Shane Clark said. “Spring is a time to get some fundamentals and some basics down. We’re not trying to bang anybody up too much and that kind of stuff throughout the spring, but we had a chance to find out some things about some kids, which is pretty good.”

“Hopefully we’ll be able to build off of what we saw,” he said

The Tigers’ 2013 season came to an abrupt end in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs, falling to Belton-Honea Path 20-14 in a heartbreaking nail biter.

Clark’s team has since recovered, but the head coach will be looking to replace a few key seniors.

“I think we’ll be alright,” he said. “We’ve obviously got some holes to fill with graduation and that kind of stuff, but we’ll hopefully be able to do that with them. That’s what we tried to do. We tried to put some guys in some of those spots and see what they were capable of doing. We’ll just have to see what we get out of them.”

The spring has provided time for Blue Ridge to see which players will step up and has allowed coaches to evaluate important positions.

“Obviously we’ve got to really rebuild our entire defensive line for the most part,” Clark said. “We’ve got a couple of guys that did start some games for us last year that are back, Caleb Lynn and Zach Martin. Those guys had a pretty good spring and we’re looking at them to step up and play a pretty major role in everything we have going on.”

Blue Ridge will be without its two-year starting quarterback Ty Montgomery when the team kicks off against Wade Hampton in August, but Clark said the offense will step up.

“Offensively, we’re trying to get our quarterback situation locked down,” he said. “We’ve had Ty [Montgomery] for the last two years and he’s gone now. We’ve got a guy who is a sophomore that’s probably going to be the guy at this point. Jay Urich had a pretty good spring overall. He’s a very coachable kid and we’re looking for some good things out of him.”

Spring evaluations can also provide some nice surprises, Clark said.

“It helps you to find some kids that you may not have known a whole lot about,” Clark said. “That’s one of the biggest things. We didn’t have too many major surprises, but we did have a few. That was kind of nice.”

During the summer, things will not slow down for the Tigers. Workouts, tournaments and weights are on the agenda in the coming weeks.

“We’ll be working out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays all summer,” Clark said.  “We’ll also be doing some seven on seven tournaments and most of those are scheduled in July right now.”

Although Blue Ridge is setting its sights on a new season, the team’s goals will always remain the same.

“We want to improve every year,” Clark said. “One goal that we’ve got to have as a team is that we don’t just want to make the playoffs, we’ve got to get past that first round as well.  That’s been something we struggled with these past couple years. We’ve been close both times, but we want to try to go a little bit deeper in the playoffs right there.

“Obviously, the goal is to try to win your region,” he said. “These are the kind of things we continue to press on our guys.”

Clark has already reviewed the new schedule, but says there’s no time to focus on what could happen down the road.

“It doesn’t really matter to me,” he said. “We always say we start with No. 1, so Wade Hampton is our game one and that’s all we’re thinking about the whole time. Our schedule has changed due to some changes in the region and we couldn’t find a week three anywhere. We’re having to play Stephens County, Georgia in week three, which is a little bit of a change, but that’s the only game we could find.”

Coming away with a region title in 2014 is going to require significant hard work, Clark said.

“It’s going to take commitment from our kids,” he said. “We’ve got to show commitment and dedication.” | 877-2076

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