Brindlee Mountain head coach Keith Garner saw enough from his football team during two weeks of spring practice that he called off the final day last Friday.
Instead of a planned scrimmage, Garner, his assistants and players gathered in a classroom and ordered in pizza, which they ate while watching film of recent practices, including a scrimmage on Thursday.
“I got a picture of what we wanted to see, and considering our numbers, I didn’t want to chance an injury,” Garner said. “I thought it would be better to use that day to watch video and review what we did.
“And it was a good day Friday. We had good days Thursday and Friday.”
Garner is still upbeat despite going 1-19 his first two seasons at Brindlee Mountain. His first season, the Lions showed promise, defeating Douglas in the sixth game after losing a double-overtime game at New Hope the third week – a game everyone on the Brindlee Mountain sideline thought it should have won.
But the 25-6 win over Douglas was followed by a series of key injuries as the Lions faltered in the second half. Last season, the team lost its best player on either side of the ball in the spring game, and the Lions were no match for any opponent on its schedule.
Their closest game was a 19-7 loss at Asbury in the opener – Asbury’s first-ever win in football. For the season, the Lions were outscored 508-26.
The culprit, as it often has been at Brindlee Mountain, is a lack of depth. The Lions finished last season with about 20 players.
Though he saw enough this spring to again be optimistic, Garner concedes numbers again could be an issue. Garner annually has gotten a lot of student-athletes to come out for football, but invariably not enough stick around.
“It’s the same old story,” he said. “We had 42 to sign up, but only 32 actually came out.
“We finished with 25.”
Garner is hopeful a “handful of kids” will come out over the summer, including some who have had conflicts.
“We should be OK,” he said. “Our goal is to dress 35 and we should be in the 30 range.”
Another problem is that many enter the program – mainly at the middle school level but also occasionally at the high school level – with little or no experience playing football.
That takes time spent on teaching fundamentals that could have been spent on installing the offense and defense.
But what Garner does have on the field is pleasing to his eyes.
“This is a great group of guys,” he said. “They got after it really hard on Thursday.
“It’s a learning experience but these are good kids with good attitudes.”
Garner has already noted that several basketball players came out for football this spring, and he’s been highly pleased with them.
“You’ve got to be able to run and catch the ball and make plays in the open field,” he said. “We’ve got some kids out now who can do that.”
There have been several individuals who have stood out, according to Garner. Will Compton, a baseball and basketball player, is out for football for the first time and may end up being the quarterback.
“He’s a really good lefty athlete,” Garner said of the rising sophomore. “Inexperience is his only problem.
“This is the first time he’s ever played football, and I think he’s going to be a good player.”
So will rising junior Christian Adams, a tight end/inside slot receiver who made a lot of good plays during spring.
“He’s a tall, rangy kid who can jump and run,” Garner said.
“He’s the kind of kid we’ve been missing.”
Another player new to football is rising junior Kaleb Henderson, who has played basketball and soccer.
“I watched him playing in the gym all year long, and I knew if he’d come out (for football), he’d make an impact and he did, on both sides of the ball,” Garner said. “He’s the type who hand him the ball and tell him what to do, and he’ll get it done. He was great in our last scrimmage.
“The bottom line is, he can run and he can hit. He had great vision and a great feel for what he’s doing and he plays hard. He’s the kind of kid you’re looking for.”
Perhaps the biggest standout, though, is a rare returning player, rising junior Bryce Royster, who plays the line on both sides of the ball.
Garner was a bit stunned as he watched Royster this spring.
“He really turned heads,” he said. “He has improved tremendously. He’s come leaps and bounds the last 12 months.
“A year ago, he really wasn’t ready to play. But he’s come back with a great mentality.
“Some of it is the natural maturing process but he’s also in a good place right now and it has helped his game.”
2019 varsity schedule
Aug. 23 Asbury
Aug. 30 at Southeastern
Sept. 6 at Pisgah*
Sept. 13 Geraldine*
Sept. 20 Susan Moore* (HC)
Sept. 27 at Douglas
Oct. 4 at Sylvania*
Oct. 11 Plainview*
Oct. 18 Open
Oct. 25 at New Hope*
Nov. 1 DAR
• All games start at 7 p.m.
* – 3A, Region 7 game