There are certain things you can tell about a team by watching them practice every day and other things that you don’t see until game day.
For example: It’s almost impossible to get a feel for a team’s defense during the week. Defense is about quick reaction to various possible cues, intensity and all eleven players reading the play and attacking the ball from correct angles. The only way to display these traits is by full-contact, live scrimmage vs. varsity speed and execution and almost nobody does this anymore. Instead most will break down their defense into position units and work keys and contact technique in a controlled way.
Coaches know which players will fly around the field, they don’t have to teach varsity players how to bang, so there’s nothing gained by beating on their own offensive players in practice. It makes more sense to save the aggression for the game.
Practice does give you a better indication to how an offense will play. Offense is about timing and execution and these are more easily practiced without using a live defense to work against. Even so, there are some things practice doesn’t easily show; how well does a quarterback throw the ball against a live rush? How well will they adjust to unexpected fronts and blitzes?
With that said: Some last impressions of the Abilene High Eagles before the ‘Cross-town Showdown’,, the ‘Battle at Shotwell’ or whatever people want to call the rivalry between the two 5A schools in Abilene.
- Practice at Abilene is very efficient, relatively short and very quickly paced. Athletic period is often used for special teams, teaching adjustments and walking through new material. All areas that make for a lot of standing around. As a result, when the Eagles take the field afterschool, there are very few delays.
- Quarterback Evin Abbe has amazing accuracy. I did not see him throw a bad pass all week, he hits receivers on their break with just the right touch.
- Defensive players look quick and have great technique, the defensive staff also does a great job using film to self assess things to work on and to teach opponent tendencies.
- While this is clearly a rivalry week, I haven’t seen any ugliness. A local reporter used as a positive example the rivalry between La Marque and Galveston Ball. I was at La Marque that week and the atmosphere here is similar. Excitement, but not hate. This isn’t the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, but relatives eager to show off their ability to each other. If there is bad blood I haven’t seen it yet. The vibe I get in one of respect from the Abilene High side.
- I’ve heard the tickets are pretty well gone, a full house of 15,000 is expected at Shotwell tomorrow night. What an exciting setting for these student-athletes, as one told me yesterday, “Little kids always dream of playing for the Cowboys, this is as good as it gets for us.” I’ve never been, but I bet 15,000 at a rivalry game at Shotwell is as good an atmosphere as Cowboy Stadium most Sundays. I hope these kids know how lucky they are to play in a game like this.
It’s been a fun week, great to have some cool weather again, and it should be a very exciting night.