Fans mingle as Pell City holds scrimmage
by Erich Hilkert
PELL CITY—A collection of 15 referees discussed fine points and ways to sharpen their officiating just as the Pell City players worked with coaches to improve at ‘Meet the Panthers’ Day at Pete Rich Stadium.

The team scrimmage was just the grand finale to an event that had saw the school band perform, plenty of youth league players involved and the varsity cheerleader squad announced at half time.

“I got a good vibe that people enjoy what we’re doing,” head coach Brooks Dampeer said. “I think it’s always great to have the varsity kids mingling with the youth programs. That was a good picture of our community. I pray and hope that we grow as one. We always pull the rope the same way, and I hope the community knows that we’re here for them and our doors are always open. We want people to be involved in every way possible. It’s important for these older kids to see those young kids looking up to them. Sometimes they don’t realize everybody’s an example; everybody’s a role model. You’re either a good one or a bad one. There’s really no in between. We strive for our kids to understand that and not take that for granted. I hope when they see them at Walmart or down the street they say ‘Hey, I hope to be you one day.’ I think it was good.

“It was a lot of logistics to get it all together, and I’m thankful to all the people that helped us. There is a lot of behind-the-scene help from our booster club and parents of the kids. I’m very thankful for what those youth coaches do and the willingness to work with us of the people in our youth leagues.”

In addition to getting to be a key part of the festivities, children were able to receive autographs from the varsity players and cheerleaders.

“To see them being able to sit down and sign all those autographs—a lot of big eyes from the young kids,” Dampeer said. “Success is those young kids wanting to be that high school football player. We’re going to do things the right way to set a good example for those young men.”

Once the scrimmage got underway, the defense differentiated themselves from the offense with red caps over their helmets. The defense was the winner early on, as the offense was held scoreless in the first half. Andy Heath had a forced fumble, Casey Bishop got a quarterback sack, and Ira Burch launched a 55-yard punt.

“I like it; I’m pleased with what we’re doing scheme-wise, with how we’re coaching it with what we’re asking our kids to do,” Dampeer said following the scrimmage of his defense’s performance. “They’ve taken on to coach (Maxwell) Thurmond and the defensive staff very well. It’s been a great fit for those coaches and myself, along with the defensive players. We’re always going to have great, great effort. We want to run to the football, swarm to the ball and when you do those things a lot of times the scheme takes care of itself. At the same time, we’re going to make sure we’re on top of our scheme and we’ll be very well-prepared on the defensive side of the ball, with special teams, and offensively as well.”

While there were some questions on the starting quarterback job, Dampeer feels the issue is resolved. Senior Jackson Williamson took all the snaps with the first team during the scrimmage.

“Jackson will start next Friday in the jamboree,” Dampeer said. “It’s been a process through the summer; we knew it was going to be a process. We just kind of had to let it play out. We think we know where we’re headed now. It’s about being productive and taking care of the football. All of the guys have matured. I’m very proud of them. I’m proud of just the way they’ve been taking in coaching and all of those kinds of things. It’s a process, like every year you lose a quarterback, you lose lineman, especially offensively. It’s always a process to find your niche, find an identity. We want to be a physical, hard-nosed, play-action, quick-game type of team, but it still just takes a little while for everybody to mesh. We think we’ve found that, and we hope to keep improving week in and week out.”

The offense started to click in the second half. Sophomore quarterback Caleb Hurt threw the ball over the middle to receiver Tyler Holloman in the end zone for a touchdown. Kicker Ryan Curran was successful on the PAT.

Hurt threw another touchdown a few drives later to Peyton Brownlee from 19 yards out and Curran connected again on the PAT.

The offense sputtered following back-to-back false starts on the offensive line, something Dampeer wants to continue to work on improving.

“There’s four new offensive lineman and we’re playing a fifth, so we’re playing in that starting bunch about six guys and five of them have their first year to take that kind of role,” he said. “We were doing some check with me stuff, a little bit of motion and they were getting antsy. A couple of times they jumped off sides. We’ve just got to lock in. It’s such a mental game. They’re doing well because we’ve thrown a lot at them and asked them to take it all in.”

Senior tight end Casey Bishop hauled in a long pass from Williamson for a gain of more than 20 yards to get the offense back on track. Demaurian Wills finished off the drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown. Curran made the PAT.

On the final drive, Williamson made another big completion, this time over the middle to Ira Burch for another gain of more than 20 yards. Ryan Curran finished the game with a field goal.

© 2013