Eyes on the prize
Tonganoxie works on fundamentals, looking for quarterback replacement
Tonganoxie High football wide receivers stood roughly five yards from coach Alan Diehl, with their backs turned. They were listening for a direction.
"Left! ... Right!" yelled Diehl, as he mixed up the directions and told the players which way to turn to catch the pass.
The drill on Thursday was a portion of THS coach Mark Elston's high school camp, which ran Monday through Saturday at the Tonganoxie practice fields.
The camp, which attracted 65 football players, gave THS coaches a chance to begin work on offensive schemes for the 2007 season.
They also worked on defense and special teams, but Elston said it was difficult for the defense to work on specifics without pads. The defensive and special teams units covered the basics, though.
The offense is ahead of where Elston envisioned it at the end of July.
Tonganoxie will replace 10 starters from an offense that helped the Chieftains to a 8-2 record a year ago.
Replacing quarterback Jeff Hughes will be one of Tonganoxie's top priorities this season. No Chieftains quarterback has taken a snap yet at the varsity level.
A starting quarterback for the 2007 season has not been named. Vying for the position are junior Zack Robinson and sophomore John Emery. Three freshmen quarterbacks are also in the mix.
"There's not a starter named until 30 minutes before the first game," Elston said.
At Thursday's camp, which lasted from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., quarterbacks worked on mechanics, footwork and play-calling with the offense.
Robinson actually played running back for the Chieftains last season. He said the transition to quarterback was a big change.
"I've been trying to take snaps and learn all the plays," Robinson said. "I know them all, but now I have to know everyone's position and not just mine."
The fact that Tonganoxie doesn't know who will start at quarterback doesn't affect Robinson's mindset.
"I just think that whoever has it down the best and who knows everything the best should play," Robinson said. "Even if it's not me, it doesn't matter."
Senior wide receiver/tight end Gabe Belobrajdic has worked with both quarterbacks this summer. He said Robinson and Emery already have a positive rapport with the players. Belobrajdic noticed positive, but different qualities in the quarterbacks.
"Zack's shorter, but he's a real smart runner as far as the option and everything else," Belobrajdic said. "John is a good passer. I like catching his passes."
Practice is still 12 days away, but the camp reflected a serious, down-to-business atmosphere.
Players weren't in pads but didn't appear to walk through any drills at the camp.
"It might not be full contact, but we have the half-round dummies out and we're making contact," Belobrajdic said. "It's not just running around. This is just like practice. The coaches are serious and not taking it lightly. That's just what it takes to win."
Players encouraged each other throughout the camp and focused on team unity. All 65 players trotted from the locker room to the practice field together. They also formed a crowded circle and got everyone pumped up before the camp started.
"Effort and hustle are the big things," Elston said. "We're looking for guys who can step up when you need a player and when you want to find somebody who can jump in."
Football extra: The varsity football practice that was originally scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Aug. 13 has been moved to 3:30 p.m. that same day. The Chieftains won't begin practice in pads until Aug. 16.