Positive thinkingDenson enforcing discipline, success into Bulldogs’ psyche

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; If the Natchez High football team is going to shake off a 1-20 record over the past two seasons, including last year’s winless performance, head coach James Denson is going to get inside his players’ heads.

Shouts of, &uot;Let’s get active,&uot; yanking players from the field for not knowing plays and interceding huddles for taking too long is all part of what Denson hopes is a resounding message of success.

&uot;You can’t live in the past. These kids are used to losing,&uot; said Denson, who will begin his third year with the Bulldogs in the fall. &uot;They’ve been kicked around more than a pair of old shoes. We’re trying to develop confidence. Winning is nothing but an attitude.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

The reshaping of players’ characters has been under way for several weeks now and will culminate this spring at the McComb Coca-Cola Jamboree this Saturday.

Natchez’s varsity opens the afternoon session against Brookhaven at 2 p.m., and comes back to play Lawrence County at 4 p.m.

The games consist of three offensive possessions &045; 12 plays, 12 plays and eight plays &045; with normal scoring rules applying.

Wednesday’s practice saw Denson work both offensive and defensive teams vertically down the field in game-like situations &045; second and 6 from the 30, 4th and 1 from inside the 5-yard line, etc.

&uot;We’re trying to get them use to the different situations they’ll see all over the field. It’s going to take all year,&uot; Denson said. &uot;It’s a study with high school

kids. We as coaches forget that this is sometimes secondary to kids. It requires constant repetition.&uot;

Spring games are treated as a learning curve to see where the potential you believed you had measures up against a team other than your own, Denson said.

&uot;It’s just like taking an aspirin for a headache &045; you do it to find out what you need to do next,&uot; he said. &uot;You find out how kids work in pressure situations. It’s my job to use that and continue to teach from that.&uot;

After the jamboree Saturday, players will participate in final exams and then have one full week to cram in summer vacation before returning to the field to go back to work.

Denson said it’s not his job to get his players in shape during the offseason, but expects them to be prepared mentally as fall approaches.

&uot;There’s nothing new in football,&uot; he said. &uot;Formations don’t win games; games are won with kids who can do the basic, simple things. The bottom line for success is execution.&uot;

What is in his job description is finding a replacement at quarterback for the departed Leon Stewart.

Currently to-be seniors Michael Williams and Frankie Williams &045; no relation &045; are working out at the position, but are looking over their shoulders at to-be junior Riley Trask, who has caught the watchful eye of Denson.

&uot;We want to see where we are in our personnel to ascertain what we’re going to be able to do,&uot; Denson said of the most important position on the football field. &uot;Riley Trask is a kid with a lot of ability, who, if he keeps his head on straight, has all the tools to be a great quarterback for us.&uot;

On defense the Bulldogs will look to build around four stalwarts on the defensive front, including Michael Woods, Terrence Sproulls and Garrick Hawkins.

Michael Winn is gone, but with the quartet on the line many opponents will think twice before running on Natchez next season.

&uot;We have a lot of experience there. They are good kids and ball players with several being highly recruited,&uot; Denson said. &uot;They have a lot of ability, but it’s their liability we’ll focus on ironing out.&uot;

After an abbreviated hour and 30 minute practice Wednesday, Denson whistled his soldiers in at midfield and again banged into their heads the importance of duplication leading to success.

If Denson can determine his leaders early and get the Bulldogs to buy into all his proverbs about discipline, then maybe the win column will be a little fatter this fall.

&uot;The main thing that we have got to do is continuing to teach,&uot; Denson said. &uot;These kids are like a blank sheet of paper, so we have to take the good and build on it and take the negative and eliminate that.&uot;