First-year Payson High School football coach Jake Swartwood’s focus during last week’s gridiron practices, the first of the preseason, was on developing good attitudes in the about 70 prospective players who turned out.
“We are teaching a ‘We concept instead of me,’” said the coach. “We want them thinking more about the team than the individual.”
Swartwood is convinced the first five days of team building is producing results, “We are more united than we’ve been in the four years I’ve been coaching here.”
Also during opening week, the players completed the AIA-mandated concussion awareness classroom course and spent a few hours writing goals.
In addition to focusing on the mental aspects of the game, Swartwood and his staff are teaching the nuances of both a new offense and defense while also taking care of all-important conditioning and strength training.
Yesterday, the team donned helmets for the first day and tomorrow will report to practice in “shells” or half-pads.
Swartwood expects the team to be outfitted in full pads by the end of the week but will limit all out hitting and scrimmaging until next week.
The coach anticipates that even more players will turn out this week, but they must finish the mandatory days of conditioning before they will be allowed in full pads and have contact.
The Longhorns are coming off a 4-6 season in which several key players were sidelined with injuries, forcing then-coach Byron Quinlan to use younger, untested athletes and domino players from position to position.
Several of the players off that team, including wide receiver Tyus Sarnowski and quarterback Gunner Goodman, return to form the nucleus of the current squad.
The team opens the season 7 p.m. Aug. 31 at Camp Verde.