The sixth of August has been the date ingrained into Todd Alexander’s daily thoughts ever since he accepted the job as the Waxahachie Indian head football coach in April.
With the first week of practices here and gone, it’s now time to refocus on week one — Aug. 31 on the road in the Battle of 287 against Sam Harrell and the Ennis Lions.
The UIL affords high school football programs two options for spring and fall practices: Participate in roughly three weeks of spring drills and forgo the first week of fall practice or sacrifice the spring and start fall practices the first Monday in August. For Alexander and the Indians, the choice was easy, as the spring was used to fill out the coaching staff.
After all, it’s a little tough to install an offense without an offensive coordinator, and a team sure can’t learn a new defensive scheme without coaches.
In total, 18 new football coaches have joined Waxahachie ISD at either the high school or junior high levels, including three new junior coordinators and eight of the 12 on the varsity staff.
Alexander said he is “extremely excited” about the staff from top to bottom and noted, “the success of our program is going to depend on these guys” as the Indians make the jump from Class 5A into 6A.
“Just in the short time working with them this summer, I could tell that we all mesh pretty well together and we work through issues and problems together in a productive way that is going to be beneficial for our program,” he continued. “I couldn't be more excited about the guys we have on staff.”
Zac Harrell will be the primary play-caller from the press box in his new role as the offensive coordinator.
Many in the area will remember Harrell as a wide receiver for the Ennis Lions, where his father, Sam, was the head coach (and has returned once again). He is the oldest of the three Harrell brothers and has also been on coaching staffs as either an offensive coordinator or assistant at Van, Sweetwater, Prosper and Denton Ryan.
The Harrell-led offense will be “exciting,” said Alexander. “It is not a boring offense at all. It is multiple with multiple formations and multiple schemes. One word that I hope is used about our offense out there on Friday nights is ‘exciting.’”
Alexander was, though, a little hesitant to put a percentage on run-to-pass play calls in the new-look offense. “It's pretty much a set percentage but depending on how a game is going and who we are playing that number could change a good bit from week to week. It will all still depend on how we are going to attack our opponent and where we identify their weaknesses are.”
Jeff Berry is the new defensive coordinator and will lead the Indians in the direction of a more traditional style of play. Alexander was quick to label Berry as a “defensive guru.”
Berry, who has not coached football in the last two years at Burleson High, previously served as the defensive coordinator at Keller and Ennis, with the latter being under Sam Harrell where he was a part of the 2004 state championship team. Berry was also the head coach at Corsicana for four years.
“You can ask just about any coach in the DFW Metroplex who has been coaching for a while and they will tell you that Jeff is one of the go-to guys if you have questions about any defense. He is a schemer, and he prides himself on it.”
Yet even with his extensive knowledge and background, one of the best aspects Berry brings to the defensive room is his ability to keep the scheme simple and disruptive.
“Our goal on the defensive side of the ball is less confusion and more aggression,” Alexander added.
Other additions to the varsity staff include Matt Cochran (safeties), Zac Bryant (offensive line), Corey Zeno (corners), Justin Lozano (quarterbacks), and Cody Heil (assistant offensive line).
With the exception of Heil, a recent Waxahachie graduate, the other four have all previously served as coordinators or assistant head coaches in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. They also join four returning coaches from last season’s staff — Rocky Robinson (asst head coach), Gary Mason (defensive line), Blake Harrison (outside linebackers) and Lamont Moore (wide receivers).
“The key component that they all have is experience. I have two words that will describe each of these guys, and it's that they are football coaches. They all have a passion for kids and they're all workaholics. They see everything and they notice everything. When we get out of a meeting there is no stone left unturned. They know what they want to achieve and they know how they want to achieve it.”
He added, “[...] Whatever adjustments they have needed to make they have obviously made them because everyone is working so well together. In a short amount of time, we have already created a family-type atmosphere within our coaching staff, and that was one of my goals. We spend too much time together for it to not be that way.”
The Indians and their new-look coaching staff open the season at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31 in Ennis.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith