Before this week, I probably knew less about Carthage than any of the eleven teams I’m covering. There isn’t a lot written about them and I didn’t quite expect what I saw. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful the facilities were. The second thing was just how many kids, support staff and coaches were involved and how well coordinated everything was during the first practice. I had to keep reminding myself that this school is relatively small with only 741 students. The atmosphere was much more big time than 741 led me to believe.
At 7:30, around 120 players took the field quickly warmed up and got into their individual groups. Shortly thereafter another 60 freshmen met on the lower field for their practice, by my math, a little more than 50% of the male enrollment of the school was participating.
The first sign of a well organized practice is how rarely anyone needs to be told where to go and how quickly everyone transitions from activity to activity; by that measure Carthage was as good as it gets. The bell rang at 5 minute intervals, with coaches and position players breaking up and forming into different groupings as their schedules indicated.
I was very impressed with how much teaching was being done by the assistant coaches, to both the veterans and the less experienced players. With 120 kids, there were some greatly talented kids, but also some very average ones. The coaches didn’t differentiate; making sure everyone got a lot of instruction. This is an advantage of a well funded program. There were enough coaches to work with everybody. Smaller staffs have to pick and choose where to focus attention and too often the less able players get shortchanged.
The other thing that stood out was just how physical Carthage was. Although only wearing helmets, the Bulldogs often brought offensive and defensive groups together and went at it. Several coaches told me this is a big part of their philosophy. They will out-physical everyone and build that concept into their practice.
I’m not in a position to know what their competition looks like, but the Carthage squad looked outstanding, a lot of speed, the QB and RB stood out as very good and the defense flew around. Like their 3A counterparts at La Marque it’s going to be a lot of fun to see this team in pads in a few weeks.