Summer is over for HS football teams
The summers are always shorter for high school football coaches in New Hampshire, but perhaps no head coach had a shorter one than Keith Jones.
After coaching in the CHaD East-West All-Star Game for the second time, Jones had to wait just six-and-a-half weeks for the start of preseason practices.
"The summer ends quickly," he said. "It’s fun coaching the all-star games. You get to meet kids from different places and do different things and try some things out."
This year’s all-star game helped Jones pick up an assistant coach, too, as Paul Drone, who was on the staff for the West team, made the move from Merrimack to Milford this offseason.
One thing that has always excited Jones about the start of football practice has been the quality and character of the players that make up the Spartans’ roster.
"We’re lucky in Milford because we always have a real good group of character kids and we’re always excited to coach them," he said. "We’ve got a good group returning. We lost a few key kids in (Nick) Skinner, (Travis) Hughes, (Adam) Audet and Jahir (Romney), they’ll be tough to replace, but we had some kids work really hard in the offseason to improve themselves."
How much they’ve improved is hard to gauge, not just until they step on the practice field for the first time, but also not until the players have faced off against another team.
"You can see the size difference, but you won’t actually see it until it’s on the field," Jones said. "Sometimes you have the body of a 10 and you play like a two, so we want to see what we’ve got. It should be a good year."
The Milford coaching staff should learn a little more next week when it heads to Camp Robin Hood in Freedom, N.H., for three days with Goffstown and Londonderry.
Lones was looking forward to the first day of practice this week because it would mark the first time he’d really have his team all together.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a much smaller group than the second-year coach expected.
"Our numbers are way down from last year," he said. "We’ve got a small team and our senior class is four kids. In the offseason, the ones that are here, worked hard. We did well in seven-on-sevens, but our biggest group of kids now is our freshmen and sophomores.
"We looked really good, but the problem is what are we going to do at the second level? Those are the question marks and the scary things."
The low numbers likely mean that HB will not only be without a freshmen team, but maybe even a junior varsity team as well.
"That freshmen group that was coming up, I was really looking to have a team, but with the numbers we have, we can’t have two teams," Lones said. "We’ll coach the kids we’ve got. We’ll put our best kids out there this year. We’ve going to be young and they’re going to learn."
Third-year Souhegan coach Mike Lochman is excited about the season after having the highest amount of players participate in offseason workouts since he took the reins.
"I’m really proud of what we showed up with," he said. "The kids have been in the weight room since football was still being played in New Hampshire (last fall). A lot of our guys felt like there was some unfinished business to be attended to, which was kind of nice."
The Sabers have taken steps forward in each of Lochman’s first two seasons, finishing 5-3 last year and a game outside of the Division II postseason. With a good-sized senior class coming back, and some talented underclassmen moving up, there are now expectations.
"There has been a lot of talk in the offseason about what we feel we’re capable of doing," Lochman said. "I think they also are now mature enough to realize that what we’re capable of and what we actually end up accomplishing are two very different things. We still have to show up and play really well."
It’s a big difference from his first season, when Souhegan was replacing almost all of it’s starting lineup on both sides of the ball.
Now it feels like it’s all coming together, which is something Lochman enjoys seeing during the first few days of practice.
"This is the first time where I really feel like we’re able to click," he said. "I feel I know the guys really well at this point and the guys know the system really well at this point. They know what I expect of them and it’s been a much smoother transition coming into (Wednesday)."