Spring marks start of Block rebuild

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 31, 2004

JONESVILLE, La. &045; It was a late Friday afternoon in May.

Rain pounded against the windows and brick walls of Block High School’s gymnasium, yet inside head football coach Chad Harkins bore his game scowl.

His right arm draped across his chest as his left hand contemplatively pinched his chin, Harkins scanned the floor as his offense and defense carried out his instructions.

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For the most part Harkins, who begins his third season as the Bears head coach in the fall, liked what he saw. However, there were moments where he redirected players to positions and repeated the same X’s and O’s in order for these semi-newbies to grasp the nuances.

It’s somewhat to be expected from a team trying to replace nine starters on offense and eight defensively.

Six Bears played both ways last season for a team that finished 9-4 after a gut-wrenching 28-24 loss to St. Edmund in the Class 1A quarterfinals. Harkins anticipates even more &045; seven being the current guesstimate &045; in 2004.

&uot;It’s not quite as bad as replacing nine guys because we’ve got guys with a little bit of experience, just not playing four quarters on both sides,&uot; said Harkins, whose team hosts Ferriday and, perhaps, Mangham in a spring jamboree Tuesday. &uot;They’re learning what it means to do this every day. Two weeks isn’t long enough.&uot;

Harkins, who served as an assistant at Block for three years before assuming the reins in 2002, quickly points out much of his current cast stood in the shadows during the last two seasons.

Wing backs, positions vital in Block’s offensive set, Johnny Lee and Michael Griffin will attempt to fill the void felt by the graduations of Demetrius Duncan and E.J. Wilkerson.

Matt Johnson takes the place of Demetrius Bowie under center. Johnson started the opener two years ago against Cathedral before suffering a broken collarbone during that game, which paved the way for Bowie.

&uot;My quarterback (Johnson) is a good leader,&uot; Harkins said. &uot;I expect big things out of him. I have those same expectations out of the rest of them, especially those at the wing back spots.&uot;

Block also must find receiving targets, now that 6-5 tight end Jeremy Washington and 6-3 Jamarcus Crumpton are gone.

Veteran starters Toshiro Fisher and A.J. Sharp do give the Bears a modicum of experience.

Fisher played tackle during 2003 before Harkins tinkered with the 4.63 40 senior-to-be at fullback this spring.

He reneged on that experiment, though, realizing Fisher’s leadership is more valuable to a youthful O-line.

&uot;We haven’t had to worry about a lot of stuff,&uot; Harkins said in reference to recent success. &uot;We looked around (this spring) and said, ‘My God.’ It was real evident guys were missing, Especially to guys like Toshiro and A.J. who were used to playing with those guys.&uot;

The Bears certainly expect to be fast once again, especially on defense, thanks to agility and coordination drills Harkins and his staff put them through this spring.

Block players improved their flexibility with the aid of hurdle and mobility exercises.

&uot;Defensively, it’s gonna be simple, but we’ll keep (opponents) off-balance up front with different looks,&uot; Harkins said. &uot;We’ll run some 3-4, which is something we did do last year, but only on certain things. &uot;

On the back of t-shirts passed out during the spring reads this reminder: &uot;Big, Fast, Physical, Live up to it.&uot;

&uot;By no means is the program where I want or where I need it to be,&uot; Harkins said. &uot;I want the parents more involved as to where they know what to expect of their kids. I think we’re on our way.&uot;