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story.lead_photo.caption Fayetteville High School quarterback Taylor Powell takes a snap under center from Max Thurman Monday, August 1, 2016, during practice at Harmon Stadium in Fayetteville. The Fayetteville High School Football team is now being coached by first year head coach Bill Blankenship. - Photo by David Gottschalk

FAYETTEVILLE -- Fayetteville hit the field for the first day of fall football practice Monday morning at Harmon Stadium with more than 100 varsity players.

New coach Bill Blankenship said he was pleased with the enthusiasm shown by his players in the opening workouts, but admitted this wasn't the best first practice of his career.

"I've had better, but I've had worse," he said. "I think this is a group that knows how to do things, but a lot of our issue right now is they don't know how I like to do things.

"There's just a learning curve and that's going to be alright. Even with the staff, there's things we're going to go back and smooth over and make sure we communicate and it will be a better practice (Tuesday)."

The schemes used by Fayetteville during offensive drills Monday look similar to what the team ran prior to Blankenship's arrival. Blankenship, who replaced former coach Daryl Patton this spring, said new wrinkles of his own system are on the way.

"We didn't do anything during 7-on-7. We just let them do what they've done," said Blankenship, the former coach at Tulsa. "Now we have a little more time, and we're going to install a different skeleton.

"I don't think what it looks like will be that much different, but the way we built it is different. Two years ago they didn't play with much of a tight end here, and last year they did have the tight end. So we're going to build it where we have those guys in the offense. That doesn't mean the first game we're going to come out and look the same, but we will have it in the system."

Fayetteville will continue practicing this week from 7 to 11 a.m. When coaches and teachers return to school inservice next week practices, will switch to afternoons beginning next Wednesday.

-- Vernon Tarver • @NWAVernon


Bulldogs big on building trust, communication

Second-year Bulldogs coach Zak Clark had no problem jumping out of bed when his alarm sounded at 4 a.m. Monday morning. For him it's the same familiar feeling each year for the first day of fall practices.

"The big thing is the grind hits next week when we're going in the evening, but that's part of it," Clark said. "I really typically enjoy this week. Next week we're going to break some things up the kids don't know about."

The Bulldogs opened fall camp without three key players -- Kyler Williams, Dylan Sisemore, Trevor Browning -- due to injury. Williams is "a little banged up" and spending the week at church camp while awaiting clearance to return next week. Sisemore underwent recent ACL surgery, and Browning is out indefinitely with a hamstring issue.

Clark said he has 18 to 20 players playing both sides of the ball this fall, which cuts into practice time. However, he said he hopes it will provide some depth down the road. Meanwhile, the team will be strengthening chemistry though team exercises, Clark said.

"We've broke them up into teams, and they had to put together a puzzle without talking. It'll be something similar in communication or trust exercise," Clark said. "I think they really liked it. That was one of the things they asked is they wanted more activities like that."

A less physically taxing "Day at the Olympics" is another tactic Clark has in mind.

"Just anything we can do to build trust and communication," he said.

-- Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie


Mounties coach likes attitude

The Mounties were missing three potential starters when they took the field for their first practice on Monday, but coach Mike Loyd liked what he saw from his team.

"Their attitude has been tremendous," said Loyd, who was hired in the spring. "You don't spend time coaching attitude and effort with these kids, and it's been that way since I got here in the spring. There's a lot of winners out there, and now they've got to start believing that."

Seniors Grayson Lee, Mason Mitchell and Alex Conrey were all making college visits Monday, and all three should push for starting positions. Loyd said missing a day trying to prepare for the future is not an issue.

"Grayson's visiting Princeton, so I'm sure not going to keep a kid from going to Princeton," Loyd said. "It's not going to hurt him missing a day on August 1.

"I think we had over 80 here."

Loyd, who started his 30th year as a head coach Monday, said the first day of practice can sometimes be sluggish when players are learning. That wasn't the case Monday. He also was pleased with the team chemistry.

"People were flying around and trying to learn what they're doing," Loyd said. "Since the day I've came here I've said these kids want to be successful and they like each other. They thing we want to teach them is our motto and that's team matters most."

The Mounties will play in a four-team scrimmage Aug. 25 at Hilldale, Okla. Other teams in the event will be Wagoner, Okla., and Tahlequah, Okla.

-- Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB


Wolverines take on heat in first workout

While most football teams had their first practice sessions in the morning, Bentonville West waited until the afternoon hours to take the field for the first time.

Most of West's coaching staff must spend most of the day in new teacher orientation, which leads to the later practice sessions. Wolverines coach Bryan Pratt noticed the pace of his practices, combined with the summer heat, started to wear on some of the players by the time practice was over.

"As much as you talk to your kids about being in shape for when the season starts, it's always tough for them to come out of summer and into the first practice," Pratt said. "Obviously, we struggled some with the heat, but we'll continue to get better."

Pratt's motive throughout West's practice sessions is for his players to get in as many repetitions as possible. It's the way the Wolverines will approach their inaugural season as they utilize a no-huddle offense and keep their opponents on their heels.

"We think the kids did a pretty good job out there," Pratt said. "We're going to look for a big improvement as they go from day one to day two.

"More importantly, the first practice is under our belt and at our home, which we haven't had for a while. It's been enjoyable. The attitude of the team and the confidence level has increased since we got here, and now we feel like we belong somewhere."

While some teams experience a decrease of players during the summer, Pratt said the Wolverines have picked up about six transfers during the summer, and he doesn't expect much of a dropoff between now and the season opener Sept. 2 at Pryor, Okla.

-- Henry Apple • @NWAHenry

Sports on 08/02/2016

Print Headline: New Regime Blankenship era begins in Fayetteville

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