Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium was alive with football once again Thursday evening, as the Indians put their 18-day efforts of spring football on display for a couple of hundred supporters.
Like any scrimmage, the score of the Green-White game is as irrelevant to potential fall successes or failures as knowing the exact number of rubber pellets in the Lumpkins turf.
It's also awfully tough to gauge a spring game that includes an offense under a new coordinator.
Justin Lozano replaces Zac Harrell, who departed WISD for a head coach and athletic coordinator role at Athens High School. The defense is now under the direction of Matt Cochran, in place of Jeff Berry.
Lozano was the quarterbacks' coach this past season, while Cochran led the safeties.
Waxahachie head football coach Todd Alexander noted the coaching staff began implementing its new schemes in January during athletic periods and "kind of got a headstart. But we knew we had to go through the spring this year," he added. "That was a must for us."
"Those are two great guys, very knowledgeable, the kids love them and they were the best two for the job, regardless if they were on the staff already or not," said Alexander of Lozano and Cochran. The latter previously worked on the Waxahachie coaching staff under longtime head coach David Ream, while also spending time more recently as the defensive coordinator at Red Oak and Corsicana High Schools. "We wanted to do some things differently, both offensive and defensively, and their ideas were in direct correlation with what I wanted to do, so it was an easy decision to make."
Toss in the fact that the top three quarterbacks from this past season — DJ Hollywood, Campbell Sullivan and Casey Kelly — were still playing baseball on Saturday and did not return to football until this week, and you might just have a better chance at counting those rubber pellets than setting over-under propositions for the 2019 season.
"With those guys in baseball, we had to put our best athletes back there," Alexander said, as the absence of the trio of gunslingers did allow for the emergence of BJ Hawkins, an All-Ellis County first-team defensive back selection as a sophomore, and freshman Parker Hicks. It also drew more attention to just how talented — and nearly untackle-able — junior do-it-all-athlete Josh Sterns is for the Indians.
Sterns, an All-Ellis County first-team athlete recipient, accounted for 31 rushing attempts for 190 yards and one touchdown this past season, while also adding team-highs in receptions (37), receiving yards (603), receiving touchdowns (8), all-purpose yards (1,054), yards from scrimmage (793) and scoring (48).
His 522 receiving yards on 37 catches during 7-6A play were both second-most, trailing only La'vontae Shenault of DeSoto.
Sterns dazzled once again Thursday and this spring, offering a taste of fall potential. He wasn't the only one, but will undoubtedly be one to watch out for in the district, if not the region and beyond, in a little less than four months.
The overall performance of the Tribe on Thursday left Alexander "very pleased." He also said the top goal for the Tribe during the spring session was to exit healthy — which they did.
"We got to see a lot of kids at a log of different positions and get a lot of reps at those positions," Alexander said. "We had a couple of guys who surprised us over the spring and found some spots to fill, and we are obviously still looking for some sports over the summer, and early August will decide that."
He added, "We are doing some things a little bit different, so we wanted to introduce that to the kids and not be a shock to them when they get back in August. As far as the scrimmage goes, one thing we have prided ourselves on all offseason is to become a very disciplined football team and we showed signs that we need to improve in that area with the amount of holding calls that we had. It just happened to happen that five of those holding calls came on big plays and we can't do that if we are going to be successful. The defense played well, and they are getting to the ball, and they've had to adjust to some different things this spring and they are doing a good job."
Alexander noted the three core values that the Indians football program will pride itself on includes: 1. Mental toughness; 2. Demonstrating high character and work ethic; and 3. The ability to remain disciplined.
"And I am pleased about those things," he said of the progress made this spring. "But mentally tough and disciplined teams don't get those holding penalties or give up those big plays like we did today."
This offseason also marked the first under Alexander and his staff, as he took over with very little time to hire a coaching staff before the end of the school year, let alone implement a playbook following his hire March 29, 2018.
Alexander noted he was thoroughly pleased with the buy-in shown by the group to an offseason training regiment change. He was even more excited to see the junior and sophomore class step up and begin to lead workouts without the prodding of the coaching staff.
He also explained the biggest goals of this offseason were not necessarily related to weight room totals or on-field production. Those did occur though, even prompting the coaching staff to adjust goals in February after many of the Indians had already begun to reach milestones set for April.
"We had to reset our goals as a coaching staff," he explained, "and that was enlightening to us and fun for us. Everything we have asked these kids to do, they have done."
Per UIL rules, Alexander had the option to hold three-and-a-half weeks of spring practices or begin fall practice Aug. 5 instead of Aug. 12. It was an easy decision for Alexander, as he moves toward year two in his role as the head football coach.
The extra time paid off, too.
"It's fun coaching these guys, and that is a big plus because it's fun to come to work with who are working with a bunch of good kids who love to work hard," he explained. "We are going to be a blue-collar team because we aren't going to go out-athlete many teams in our district. We have to get our wins from doing the little things. [...] There are areas that we still need to improve and we have the summer. But we had a great offseason, had a whole lot of fun and the kids are working their tails off."