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FHS is business as usual

Football players Shannon Morales, Jaylon Hayes and Lee Quinn use a wooden box to perform a stepping exercise during Ferriday High School’s summer workouts Tuesday. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Minus a head coach, everything is business as usual for the Ferriday High School football team.

After former Trojans coach Richard Oliver announced his decision to leave a few weeks ago, assistant coach Cleothis Cummings has taken over the team’s summer workouts. And Cummings said they haven’t missed a beat.

“It’s been pretty much normal,” Cummings said. “We’ve had about 20 kids a day show up, and that’s kind of good, but we expect to have more. Everything has been running smoothly.”

Cummings said he’s incorporated some of Oliver’s plan with summer workouts, along with adding a few wrinkles of his own.

“Coach Oliver left us a pretty good workout regimen, and I’ve added a few things,” Cummings said.

Cummings also said running summer workouts is something he’s already used to, even with the coaching turnover.

“I’ve been going through this ever since 2003,” Cummings said. “Every summer, the coaches would put me over the summer workout program, so it’s been the norm.”

Rising senior Jarvis Brooks said he’s seen an immediate difference in summer workouts since Cummings took over.

“Workouts have been much more intense and hands-on,” Brooks said. “Instead of workout out three days a week, we’re getting four days of strength and conditioning in.”

Fall camp begins the week of July 30 for Ferriday, and Cummings said the things athletes do in the summer will make a big difference when the season starts.

“Summer workouts are very important,” Cummings said. “Some coaches believe it’s not as important as spring or fall, but here we believe it’s the most important. You strengthen yourself for the first four to five ball games with summer workouts. It’s what carries your guys onto the field.”

Indoor and outdoor drills are both incorporated into the Trojans’ plans.

“We do a variety of things,” Cummings said. “At 9 a.m., we hit the weights for 45 minutes to an hour. Then we do plyometrics, conditioning and things of that nature. We’re just building up their wind from top to bottom.”

Football player Keiwaun Miles lifts weights during Ferriday High School’s summer work outs Tuesday. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Plyometrics are exercises that produce fast and powerful movements. In addition to summer workouts, Cummings also said having Ferriday offer track as a sport this past spring has helped things tremendously.

“Track has always been a big part of Ferriday High School,” Cummings said. “I was in track when I was in high school, and it was a tremendous help, especially for the skill guys. They can develop form running and running techniques, and when you transfer that to weights, you can’t help but become a better athlete.”

Cummings said he was disappointed when Oliver announced he was leaving, saying that Oliver was a good coach.

“You hate to lose a coach of quality, but he stated that he wanted things to continue in the traditional way Ferriday operated,” Cummings said.

Cummings has applied for the head coaching position at Ferriday, and he said his experience combined with his love for Ferriday makes him a strong candidate. Cummings was the head coach of Ferriday Junior High School in 2010.

“I graduated from Ferriday High, and I played football here for some wonderful coaches,” Cummings said. “I know the ins and outs of the program and what is expected of the coach at Ferriday High School.”

Cummings has at least one player that’s pulling for him to get the job. Brooks said he’s been impressed with a lot of the younger players that have made it to summer workouts consistently, and Brooks said that’s a reflection on how well Cummings has been running things.

“The younger guys have gotten a lot stronger and are learning more about what we’ll do in the fall on offense and defense,” Brooks said. “If Coach Cummings is our coach, we’ll be all right.”

Brooks said the fact that Cummings is a Ferriday alumnus bodes well for the program if the school decides to hire Cummings.

“The summer before my eighth grade year, he saw the potential in me and wanted me to get better, so he brought me up here for workouts with the high school,” Brooks said.

“He’s been here for a while, he lives in town and he went to school here. We already know him, and he knows all of us. It’s a perfect fit.”

Brooks said he was unsure of things at first when Oliver announced he was leaving, but he said Cummings has been a calming influence.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I wasn’t too worried,” Brooks said. “Coach Cummings was here, and I’ve been through this every year since my freshman year of high school, so it’s not anything new. We’ll just roll with Coach (Cummings).”