High School Sports

Lewisville makes most of changes

Lewisville quarterback Corey Thomas fakes a handoff to Dennis Dunham during practice Thursday at Lewisville High School.
Lewisville quarterback Corey Thomas fakes a handoff to Dennis Dunham during practice Thursday at Lewisville High School.

RICHBURG -- Change isn't always easy.

For the last eight years, the football teams at Lewisville have had a weekend team camp to open preseason practice. The players would report Thursday night and stake out a spot in the gym.

The Lions would run onto the practice field at 12:01 a.m. Friday to ring in another season. After the final practice Sunday afternoon, the last of seven or eight, the players were released to begin daily practices on Monday.

"We did that because school had an early starting date the last eight or so years,'' Lions assistant coach Brian Dove said. "Teachers had to start working around August 3, so we'd have weekend camp to get in as many practices as possible because we're limited as far as time goes.

"With school starting later this year, it's like it was the first 20 years I coached. We went back to having camp all week long. We got here Sunday and we're staying until Friday.''

Dove, who filled in for coach Floyd Drum on Thursday, said there have been drawbacks.

The first two days, the players were wide open and couldn't wait to get onto the field. The third day, Lewisville's coaches started seeing signs players were having a hard time adjusting to camp.

"It's a new experience for all of them,'' Dove said. "Doing this for a week is demanding on the kids. It's demanding on the coaches. It gets to be a grind and starts wearing on you.

"I can tell in the players' eyes that most of them are ready to go home. As a coach, you have to reach back and use all of your motivational skills. In the end, this will be good for us, but we have to make it work.''

Assistant coach Rusty Pemberton said after the first two days the coaches were thinking they were off to a great start.

The players were motivated and way ahead of last year with 18 of 22 starters back from a team that went 8-3 and won the Region 3-A title with a 5-0 record.

Pemberton began noticing a trend.

"When we have a great practice, we know the next one is not going to be so good,'' he said. "With that many starters back and the first two practices, we looked great on paper. But after some of our practices, it looks like we have a long way to go.''

Dove said it comes down to attitude and effort, that's it's going to take confidence and consistency every practice before he'll feel comfortable.

Three players he doesn't worry about are returning offensive linemen John Jordan and John Vinson and this year's tailback, Dennis Dunham.

"I've had to smack a couple of people for not doing what they are supposed to be doing,'' Jordan said. "With us here all week, it's different circumstances than what we've done in the past.

"I've seen a difference in our linemen. Last year I was the only experienced player on the OL. Everybody is back, but we've moved some people around. I've been pleased this year by the physical part -- that's not a question -- but most of all by the mental part.''

Jordan will start at center again. He'll be flanked by guards Javario Crawford and Hakeem Moore and tackles Morrell Wright and Vinson. Don Porter, Dion Foster and Edward Thompson will share time at tight end.

Vinson, a big redhead, moved to tackle this year. He'll also start at defensive tackle.

"The steps are different at tackle, but I'm learning them,'' Vinson said. "The good thing about being at tackle is I don't have to block as many angles. I'll mostly be blocking defensive ends. When they come firing at me, I plan to take them out.''

The first thing Lions fans will notice is how much Dunham reminds them of last year's tailback, Robert Johnson. At 5-foot-5 and 150 pounds, he's just slightly bigger.

Dunham is speedy like Johnson, but doesn't have the cuts down. That, Dunham said, is a matter of time.

"Robert has been coming to practices and to the gym and talking to me,'' Dunham said. "He tells me to hold onto the ball, learn to read the cuts and use my speed to get to the corner. But I'm just one of three backs -- we call it our three-headed monster. Iwanza Colvin and Elijah Johnson are the other two.''

Camp has had its highlights. Jordan said he walked away dizzy after Wednesday night's final practice, pumped because the Lions ran the Oklahoma drill. Two offensive linemen, a quarterback and running back line up against two defensive lineman between a pair of tackling dummies. The object is for the offensive linemen to drive-block and keep the tailback, who takes a pitch, from getting tackled while staying inside the dummies.

And there are the fun times in the gym when the players relax and sleep.

Several nights ago, Crawford got up at 4 a.m., cut the gym lights on and started yelling for everyone else to get up. He carried on for 30 minutes before his teammates convinced him to kill the lights and go back to bed.

And there's Vinson, who never fails to amaze.

"I brought my mattress, coolers with ice, drinks and food, my TV and my PlayStation because the X-Box I brought last year blew up,'' he said. "And I've been calling my grandma. She's been bringing me extra food and drinks. My grandma loves me.''