Tigers train to ‘make it eight quarters’

Published 5:02 pm Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Most coaches are content with getting their athletes to play all four quarters of a game.

McKenzie head football coach Josh McLendon is asking for a bit more.

“We’ve got to get in better shape in order for those guys that will be playing both ways will be able to handle it and have the stamina to make it eight quarters,” McLendon said.

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“I tell them that you’re going to have to play eight quarters because you’re playing both sides of the ball.  It’s difficult, but it’s the hand you’re dealt.”

Playing both ways is nothing new to most 1A schools in the region, and that’s precisely why McLendon isn’t worried about having a less-than-ideal number of players.

Despite losing a number of key players from last year’s team, including offensive cornerstones Nicarius Peterson and Anthony Grace, McLendon is excited about McKenzie’s chances in 2014.

For each talented athlete lost, another has risen to take his place.

Senior Terrance Clemons will reprise his role as quarterback this season, who has gained a noticeable amount of weight in the offseason and even more experience from several passing camps this summer.

Junior receiver Condie Pugh will likely be one of his favorite targets at the receiver position, and senior Ty Adams returns to the running back position for the first time since his sophomore year.

“He’s a good runner who runs hard downhill, he’s got more speed than you think he’s got, and he’s a hard worker who really wants to be out here,” McLendon added.

“He’s what McKenzie’s all about.”

Fortunately for the Tigers, none of the personnel changes were significant enough to change the standard operating procedure, as the team will largely stick to the same spread offense that gave a number of defenses trouble last fall.

“We’re lucky enough to have a quarterback and a few receivers around him so that we can run that type of offense,” McLendon said.

“You’ve always got to adapt week to week, but right now we’re going to stay true to what I know and what we’ve been in the past and go with what we’ve got.”

But the most adapting the Tigers are doing have nothing to do with football.

From the summer’s outset, McLendon has striven to make his players not only a better group of athletes, but also a better unit.

To that end, the Tigers have participated in a number of team building exercises that range from tug-of-war contests to simply spending time with each other off the field.

“We just kind of got used to being in each other’s company and learning the ins and outs of each other’s personality,” McLendon said.

“And the good thing about it is these guys have been together so long, but you’ve still got to develop those relationships even further.”

McKenzie’s first major post-summer test will arrive in the form of a preseason jamboree with Goshen at home on Aug. 21, beginning at 6 p.m.