Skill players show promise during summer football
Most high school football coaches will tell you that the work put in during the summer months is as important, if not more, than what happens during the first few weeks of the season.
A summer spent working hard can set a program up to be successful, but players who take it easy in June, July and August can set the team back immeasurably once the season begins.
Bonner Springs coach Lew Kasselman is no different in this belief, and he said that for the most part he likes what he has seen this summer — for the most part.
The Braves showed speed, athleticism and steady improvement at numerous skill positions during the seven-on-seven passing league in June when they played three games per night on four consecutive Mondays.
One of the biggest breakthroughs came at the quarterback position, where the Braves must replace two-year starter Brandon Eastland who was lost to graduation. Kasselman said the job is still up for grabs, but junior Jourdaine Smallwood emerged as the leading candidate after a solid June.
“He did some good things in seven-on-seven,” Kasselman said. “He threw some nice balls and he learned a lot. I thought he was a good leader, but a couple times he got greedy and forced some things. You’ve got to learn to take what the defense gives you.”
Smallwood excelled in part because many of his targets also performed well. Kasselman pointed to junior running back JJ Jackson as one of the many bright spots. Jackson was injured in seven-on-seven last year, but he already is shaping up to be a potential weapon this season on both sides of the ball.
“The (broken collar bone) set him back and it never did quite heal right,” Kasselman said. “This year he’s at a different speed. He’s very competitive and works very hard. He’s going to be a big threat on our offensive side.
“He is involved in a lot of our patterns. I’ll tell you, when the ball gets in his hands he’s going to make things happen because he has good vision and makes good cuts.”
A trio of receivers — senior Nick Carver, junior Stevie Williams and senior Luke Porras — also have had a good summer, Kasselman said.
Williams and Porras both were playmakers last year, and Carver’s track speed is proving to be valuable as he improves his football skills.
“We can put about four people out there at receiver who can be threats, plus we’ve got JJ in the backfield,” Kasselman said. “But we’ve got to combine that with our line. That’s the big thing.”
The offensive line is Kasselman’s primary concern heading into the season. He sees plenty of potential with the offense, but he knows the team will need a strong offensive line to clear the way. Senior Austin Lucas has been a constant presence in the weight room and at morning workouts, but many of the team’s younger linemen have been absent this summer instead of taking advantage of their opportunity to secure starting spots.
“We’ve got three or four kids working hard,” Kasselman said of the linemen, “but we have some of them who aren’t there. That disappoints me because we’ve got some big, young kids who have potential, but they’re not there to see the benefit of working hard and getting things done. Hopefully the light will turn on and they’ll get there.”
Summer weights and conditioning run through Aug. 6. Equipment checkout will be Aug. 9-10, and the first day of fall practice will be at 3:15 p.m. Aug. 16.