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August 6, 2013

PREP FOOTBALL: Experience, leadership key for Bulldogs heading into season (PHOTO GALLERY)

HANCEVILLE — Hanceville may only be a mere two days into its fall football practice schedule, but head coach Danny Miller certainly likes what he’s seen from his team so far in the short window.

As the season draws slowly near, Miller, who’s entering his fifth year as the full-time coach for the Bulldogs, has plenty of reason to be optimistic about his Purple and Gold squad.

For one, he returns a wealth of experienced starters on both sides of the ball, most of whom have helped lead Hanceville to playoff appearances in back-to-back seasons, including last year’s 7-4 run.

If early practices are any indication, that experience, coupled with a strong determination to succeed, could propel the Dawgs well into November football.

“I thought we had some good practices, especially the first day,” Miller said. “It’s not always like that, but we had a lot of enthusiasm. I really like the kids we’ve got right now. I’ve been pleased with the hustle, as well as their willingness to be in the right places and do the right things.”

Like many coaches, Miller sought to cover the basics with his kids early on, going over offensive and defensive schemes, as well as working hard on the kicking game. The coach said he wanted to introduce plenty of material to his guys before they put on the pads, specifically fundamentals.

Despite losing Sheldon Lewis to graduation, the Bulldogs return plenty on the offensive side of the ball, including quarterback incumbent Caleb Hurst, as well as skill position players Torrey Green, Carlos Chacon, Brontae Harris, Dant’e Reese and B.J. Smalls.

With that amount of experience returning, Miller is no doubt expecting to see some good results from his senior class.

“We’re looking for them to produce, definitely,” Miller said. “Torrey’s been solid, and Carlos really came on at the end of last season. Had a good spring, too. Guys like Brontae, Dant’e and B.J. all have tremendous speed. We want them to do a little bit of everything for us.”

One area the Bulldogs could see a uptick in performance is the quarterback position.

Hurst enters this season with a full year under his belt. According to his coach, the senior signal-caller had a good offseason and is taking steps to become a better player with each passing day.

“He’s a guy who make good decisions,” Miller said. “I think he’s going to be able to make some plays for us. He’s really embraced a leadership role, which is good to see with a quarterback.”

A self-admitted non-vocal soul, Hurst said he was pumped to get back on the field and make his senior campaign count.

“Everybody’s glad to be out here,” he said. “I believe I’m ready to lead like the coaches want me to. I can do vocal. I try to do it by example. If someone doesn’t know what they’re doing, they might ask me and I’ll help them out. I’m trying to be better.”

Hurst added he feels more comfortable with every snap he takes, adding last year’s starts really helped his confidence.

“I’m ready to go,” he said. “I learned a lot last season. Hopefully this time I’ll settle in even more and make some plays for my team.”

Green is likely to be a mainstay in Hanceville’s backfield this fall, as he looks to carry the torch left by other great Bulldog backs including Lewis and Diamond Simmons.

He believes some are writing his team off for that very reason. Green quickly added, however, he plans to right that wrong in the upcoming season.

“It’s been intense so far,” he said. “I do think a lot of people are looking down on us because we don’t have a Diamond or a Sheldon, but I feel like everyone here has stepped up and been a Diamond or a Sheldon so far.

“I don’t want to necessarily make everyone forget them, but I’m going to give it my all. I can guarantee that.”

Rarely do teams make the mistake of underestimating the value senior leadership can have on the success or failure of a particular season.

And for Miller, he’s not about to start now.

The longtime coach believes his core group of seniors are going to play a big factor in determining just what kind of a year the Bulldogs tally when all is said and done.

“It’s going to be key,” Miller said. “These guys know what it takes to compete for a championship. Talent doesn’t matter, though, if they don’t play together. They understand that, they’ve worked together, and I believe that’ll help us when it comes time to take the field.”

% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at jwinfrey@cullmantimes.com.

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