RUSK — The Rusk Eagles, the defending District 7-4A-II champions, opened preparations for defending their title Monday afternoon when the team held its first workout under the hot August sun.
The varsity Eagles drilled on the grass practice field, as opposed to the artificial turf of Jim Swink Field at Eagle Stadium, as has been the case in past years.
“The rubber (fill) pellets actually melt to the bottom of the cleats when it is this hot and that causes us to go through extra pairs of shoes,” Rusk head football coach Jowell Hancock said, while periodically reminding his players how good it felt outside since a cold front had moved through.
As for the numbers, Hancock said that the Eagles have a similar number of kids out for football as they had last year (around 30 on varsity).
“Sure, you would always like to have more,” he quipped. “But we don't worry about the ones that are not here. We are just focused on getting 100-percent out of the kids that are here — the ones that want to be here.”
The Eagles spent a lot of time working on details and techniques on Monday, making sure to establish or reaffirm, a solid foundation from the get go.
Judging by the amount of time the team worked on passing drills, Eagle fans could be seeing the ole pigskin flying quite a bit this fall.
Quarterback Jaylon Hall (6'-4”, 210 lbs.) looks poised to be on target for an exceptional season in what will be his second year as the varsity starter.
Last year he combined for 26 touchdowns (16 by land, 10 by air), passed for 1,033 yards and ran for 819 yards.
Hall has a veteran offensive line in front him that features Jaheim Upshaw, Garrett Blaylock, Nick Acker, Rylan Reynolds and Jaydon Turner.
Hall also has two of his favorite targets back from last season. Veterans Jaden Rushing and Joseph McGowan should get their share of action at wide out.
The vibe was clear at practice on Monday. The expectation is for each man to perform just as if he were playing in a game on Friday night, with the behavior seen on the practice field being what can be expected in a game.
Perhaps Hancock believes that if his men take care of the little things on a daily basis, the big things will take care of themselves.
Rusk opens the regular season at home by taking on Fairfield at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 30.
Texas Football magazine has picked the Red and Black to repeat as conference champions. That fete has not been done in Rusk in 13 years.