“Feel Good Friday” for the Northwestern State football team leads into “Scrimmage Saturday” but not before “Fight Song Friday Night” as the first week of the Demons’ preseason camp wraps up with about an hour of controlled scrimmage activity Saturday morning at Turpin Stadium.
The Demons begin practice at 10 a.m. and should start 11-on-11 scrimmage competition, without tackling, about an hour into the Saturday morning session, said second-year coach Jay Thomas. He expects to see about 20-25 plays for both the first and second units, with some more snaps for remaining players.
“We won’t take any backs down live. We want to be working on technique, on fundamentals, and we want the focus to be on learning. It’ll be a live/thud tempo,” said Thomas after a two-hour practice in shorts and shoulder pads Friday afternoon. “I might wake up Saturday and have a completely different mindset but going in today, that’s our plan. We want it to be a practice, get the individual reps, because we’re nowhere near being ready to go scrimmage for a long, long time. Now a week from today, it will be a completely different story.”
Heading into the first weekend of preseason camp, Thomas was upbeat as players walked inside to cap the afternoon’s session.
“The run game was a lot better today. The defense was a little ahead of the offense today, made some plays, the opposite of what we saw yesterday,” he said. “There’s balance, good competition, and it’s fun to watch every day.
“Today is Feel Good Friday. Tonight is Fight Song Friday Night and tomorrow is Scrimmage Saturday,” said Thomas, pleased with his team’s work ethic and enthusiasm through four practices. “We’re going to sign the fight song tonight, the freshmen will, after meetings. We have some authentic vocal talent in our freshman class and it should be very entertaining.”
Two of Northwestern’s freshmen, both offensive linemen, have won acclaim for their singing ability. Clay Wiley (6-2, 300) earned All-Region Choir honors as a soloist and in an ensemble at Kilgore (Texas) High. Andrew Bluiett (6-4, 358) was choir president at West Brook High in Beaumont, was a state qualifier as a tenor, and was a four-year regional gold medalist.
“Big Bluiett’s a 350-pound tenor, so I can’t wait to hear him. Wiley’s got some bonafide ability. We have a few other guys who probably have pictured themselves being on The Voice,” said Thomas.
The loss of junior kick holder and receiver Brandon Monrose, who suffered a broken foot late in the first practice Tuesday, was disappointing but not unsettling for the Demons, due to quality backups, said Thomas.
“We sure hate it for Brandon. He’s a great little player, a tough guy, great hands, good receiver, and he held for us all last year and did a super job. But we should be just fine with the placements,” said Thomas. “Tuff McClain does a fantastic job. He was the backup last year and got a lot of work in during the spring. J.D. Almond, Cody Jones, Andy Wickman are all capable. Fakes are always an option and especially with Tuff, J.D. and Cody, that adds another dimension defenses have to consider.”
Along with the team’s effort, focus and enthusiasm, one other factor remained consistent through the first four practices.
“Monroe is out, and he ain’t playin’ … it’s hot,” said Thomas. “Monroe is what we call the sun. We had such a nice summer, but when the guys pulled on the helmets and gear, the heat’s turned up.
“Having the grass practice fields has been a blessing. That’s really helped. It’s 15 degrees cooler over there, with a breeze going. The guys have done a good job in all conditions and they realize that early season football in the South, it’s going to be awfully warm,” said Thomas.