Bulldogs take to field at 6 a.m. on their first day of fall practice

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Of all the thoughts that can go through one’s head when the alarm clock sounds before sunrise, there was only one in Natchez High James Denson’s head.

Time for football.

The Bulldogs took to the field at 6 a.m. Monday to start fall workouts, the first of three early morning practices before the start of school Thursday. It’s all part of two-a-day workouts with an evening session from 6 o’clock until 8 today and Wednesday until classes begin as public schools across the Miss-Lou opened practice Monday.

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&uot;Very spirited,&uot; Denson said of the team’s morale at the 6 a.m. practice Monday. &uot;I’ve done that before. What I used to do in keep our kids and go off to some type of camp event. We could always get them up early in the morning and have practice before breakfast. That’s part of the routine for building teamwork and discipline.&uot;

Coaches spent the 90 minutes practicing before joining other members of the school’s faculty to meet with the new superintendent, Anthony Morris, for faculty workshops. So aside from the early, early morning workouts, coaches spent time working with the new boss on how to be better teachers, too.

&uot;He laid the foundation and groundwork for the district because we’re teachers first and coaches second,&uot; Denson said. &uot;You’ve got to monitor and adjust.&uot;

The program itself had to adjust to some smaller numbers, new coaches and new surroundings in the first day of fall workouts. Coaches were reassigned with new ones coming on board, and the team suited up about 30 players Monday in the evening practice session.

Some 50-55 players were out last fall.

&uot;This is the first day of practice, and this time last year I guess we had about 10 more,&uot; Denson said. &uot;I guess we had about 29 or 30 today. Hopefully we can pick that number up.&uot;

The Bulldogs come into fall workouts with a spring workout session under their belts following the first winless season in the history of the program and all public schools in Natchez.

The Bulldogs had troubles defensively in the secondary while battling turnover problems en route to an 0-11 season. That was the second year at the helm for Denson, who was 1-10 his first year with a 15-14 win over Petal in the final week of the season.

But the man who spent 30 years as a successful head coach at South Delta High School will tell you he’s not changing his style &045; going all out to turn the program around.

&uot;We’ve got to get out of our comfort zone,&uot; he said. &uot;You can’t have a comfort zone and play this game and be successful at it. I’ve never been the kind of person to lay down. I’m going to be held responsible and accountable for it. This is a team sports, and it’s for the kids. I don’t want to cheat them.&uot;

The biggest news out of the first day of camp was the absence of starting quarterback Michael Williams, who will miss the first week to 10 days after he broke his hand earlier this summer.

That left Riley Trask and Frankie Williams taking most of the snaps with the offense Monday evening. Doctors inserted two pins into Michael Williams’ hand, and they should be removed Aug. 14 or 15.

The season begins Aug. 29 at Port Gibson.