It’s high spirits at Rogers High’s spring football camp as the team begins a new journey at the Rams’ practice field.
The mantra of the camp: look ahead, not behind you.
It’s about looking forward after a season where Rogers finished in last place in the SPSL South Division, as well as posting an eyesore of a record at 2-8.
“We feel like there’s some exciting things coming,” said coach Gene Bowen before camp kicked off. “I felt after last season, we needed to go in another direction.”
That direction entails making the game simple again.
Far too often the Rams looked lost on the field — particularly on defense — where opponents picked apart and just seem to capitalize on Rogers’ mistakes.
This is why it’s important to make the game simple.
“We want these guys to play within their roles,” new defensive coordinator Andy Armstrong said. “I don’t want them to think too much out there … the coaches will do the thinking for them, so they can just go out and play.”
Armstrong knows a thing or two about getting his units to not think and just play. He spent the last five seasons at the Class 2A level coaching Franklin Pierce High into a dominant defensive program — despite not having the talent pool Rogers can dip into.
“There’s a lot of talent at Rogers,” Armstrong said. “I’m excited to see what happens.”
Coming over with Armstrong are Dave Naron and Trevor Hanson — coaches that are in sync with one another.
“I know that look when coach Armstrong gives it to me,” Hanson said. “It means I have to go talk to the defensive backs or go handle something he needs handled. It’s nice working with people you know well.”
Not often can a coach bring in such a talented group on one side of the ball, but somehow Bowen seemed to accomplish this.
“It’s not often you can bring such a talented group of coaches in,” Bowen said. “We’re fortunate to bring in who we brought in.”
At Rogers spring camp last week, the coaches put players to task under the hot sun. Now is the time of the season to get players used to the coaches’ styles and get them to buy in to the new program. It’s never fun to go through blocking drills for linemen or backpedaling ones for defensive backs, and then follow the run-throughs with pushups.
These are the gut-busters and lung-splitting days, but in the end, the ones every Rogers football player will look back on.
“These are the days where it’s fun,” Naron said. “Football is football — it’s supposed to be a game that’s fun.”
And the days the brotherhood building begins.
“I truly believe — we believe here that you play for each other, and when you do that, the game becomes greater than just football,” Naron added. “This is where you can learn to become a man with the guy beside you.”