It was a moment that symbolizes why so many folks involved with Arab’s football program are excited about new head coach Lee Ozmint and the 2019 season.
Arab hosted an organized team activity (OTA) Thursday that also included teams from Locust Fork and Southside-Gadsden. Teams run offensive and defensive drills against squads from the other teams in these OTAs, which are allowed for all high school athletics during certain time periods of the offseason.
During a particularly long session that had Arab’s offense going against Southside’s defense, Ozmint saw that his players were tiring. So, he instructed his coaches to call for a long count.
Quarterback Ross Reynolds did just that on the next play, and eventually one or two of Southside’s defenders jumped offsides.
There was the usual clapping from the Arab players on the field and on the sidelines. Then, suddenly, Ozmint sprinted to the middle of the field, specifically to offensive lineman Zack Pugh. Ozmint enthusiastically picked up Pugh and bear-hugged him for a couple of seconds.
The mini-celebration drew cheers from Arab’s players and fans. Even coaches and players on the other side of the field seemed to get a kick out of it.
Later, I asked a player what it was all about.
“Zack’s been jumping offsides some lately. He didn’t this time,” the player said.
That, folks, is good coaching. Ozmint energized his entire team in that moment and had to make Pugh feel good about things. That’s good, too, because Pugh, a senior, is a critical cog on the Knights’ offensive line.
Ozmint explained later why he called for the long count.
“We got tired near the end,” he said. “All players get tired in a game, no matter how much conditioning they’ve had.
“On offense, we’re learning to do the little things as we get fatigued, as will happen to all teams at some point.”
After a mistake-filled OTA at Russellville on Tuesday, Ozmint was proud of the improvement shown by his offense on Thursday.
“We didn’t have a single offsides penalty on offense today,” he said.
• Locust Fork is coached by former Arab standout Matt Plunkett. Making him feel more at home in his new position was his mother, Melanie, and wife, Allison. They both attended the workout along with Matt and Allison’s three children: Audrey, 6 months; Mackenzie, 3; and Maddison, 5.
Melanie Plunkett was eager to meet Ozmint as the players were leaving the field.
“My dad (Bill Andrews) was a big Alabama fan,” she said.
Ozmint, of course, played his college ball at Alabama.
So where was husband and father, Ken Plunkett?
“He’s in the hayfield,” Melanie said. “He hated it, too, because he really wanted to come here today.”
• Matchups for next season’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge have been announced. They are Kentucky at Texas Tech, Tennessee at Kansas, Baylor at Florida, Mississippi State at Oklahoma, Missouri at West Virginia, Oklahoma State at Texas A&M, LSU at Texas, Iowa State at Auburn, Kansas State at Alabama and TCU at Arkansas.
• In hopes of boosting life into its struggling title game, the Pac-12 has announced the 2020 and 2021 championship games will be played at Las Vegas’ new NFL stadium. This year’s game again will be at Santa Clara, Calif., where attendance last year was, to be polite, uninspiring.