High School Sports

Great Falls Red Devils’ practice, turnover habits, lead to 5-0 start

Great Falls’ 2004 high school football squad was the school’s third in a row to complete a 10-0 regular season. The Red Devils eventually lost to Calhoun Falls in the state playoffs, and coach Kenneth Schofield might not have thought he would wait 10 more years for another one of his team’s to start 5-0. Great Falls has done that this fall, and goes for 6-0 Friday at home against region foe C.A. Johnson.

Asked for similarities between the 2004 and 2014 squads, Schofield found more differences.

“I don’t know that we’re as big now as we were then,” he said Tuesday morning. “That particular team had some key players that were putting things together for us every week.”

One pronounced difference between the two teams: Schofield said this year’s group practices better.

“This group of kids is practicing very well together and I will give that the biggest plus for what we’re doing in the games. They’re taking what we’re doing in practice and putting it in the games, and we’re getting some things done. I felt very good about our coaching staff this year; we’re very prepared when we go into a game for what we’re gonna see and how things are gonna go.”

That gives hope that these Red Devils, ranked No. 8 in the state’s 1A polls, might get even better, as long as they can remain healthy.

They are getting unexpected contributions from younger players, including freshman Cody Spires, who is starting at offensive guard. He’s supported by twin juniors Tyrek and Mylek Hoover and all-state seniors Tyler Langley and Ty Ross, which has made the transition to varsity high school football easier on Spires. Great Falls only has seven total linemen, and the two backups, sophomores Luke Spires and Corey Roof, have also been invaluable in keeping the starters fresh.

That’s key because Ross and Langley are dominant Class A blockers when not worn down. Ross, who is getting recruiting interest from Coastal Carolina, Presbyterian and Newberry, bench-presses 420 pounds, while Langley squats nearly 500 and is also getting interest from schools.

“They’ve put themselves in the weight room, they’ve done a good job in the classroom and they’ve put themselves in position,” said Schofield.

The Red Devils’ skill-position players have lived up to their billing, especially quarterback Chris Culp, who Schofield said can throw the ball “a year and a half down-field,” receiver/defensive back Shy Kelly, and fullback Hakeem Simpson. Great Falls’ longtime coach also mentioned senior wide receiver Christian Twitty, who made a 40-yard touchdown grab against Blacksburg in a 13-7 win in which the Red Devils only completed two passes the entire game.

Even when Great Falls has had offensive struggles, its defense has cultivated opportunity at every chance.

The Red Devils have scored at least 11 times in five games off of turnovers its defense forced. The Red Devils created five in a 46-14 blowout of Andrew Jackson, including a 35-second stretch in the first quarter where they scored three touchdowns, two from interception and fumble returns that went for six points. Kelly unofficially has four interceptions this season, while Simpson has also been active in taking the ball away from the opponent; he made two picks in last week’s win over Wagener-Salley.

“Shy Kelly is doing a great job at defensive back and standardly gets one or two a game,” said Schofield. “We’re getting different people picking a ball up here and there, or picking a ball off, and they’re turning the thing into points when they get it. If they don’t get points, it’s field position.”

Schofield’s 2004 team got better in region play; those Red Devils allowed just 30 points in four region games. Great Falls’ current unbeaten run will be tested in region play by traditional power Lamar and upstart McBee, which has its best team in years. The Red Devils face those two state-ranked opponents in back-to-back weeks starting Oct. 17.

“All the things that have happened to us this year have been good,” said Schofield. “But when you look at the next five games, that’s a lot of rough water coming. We’re gonna have to be able to withstand that, and play well.”