| By Myra Bean
New North Delta football coach Richard Russo has his coaching staff up and running in preparation for spring practice which begins Monday.
On top of that, the players have been pushing themselves hard in the weightroom preparing their bodies for the rigorous training ahead.
"I have been here five weeks now and the boys have been working extremely hard," Russo said. "They have bought into the new strength and conditioning program. I couldn’t be happier with their attendance and their effort every day."
One player who stands out during the spring will receive recognition from the coaching staff in a new award which Russo established: The Brandon Presley Green Wave Spirit Award. Russo just received approval from Presley’s mother to grant the award.
Presley was a North Delta alumnus who died while on duty in Iraq, December 12, 2005.
"The reason I did this is that I had never met Brandon, but from what I hear he had tremendous character, patriotism and Green Wave Spirit and I think he should be remembered," Russo said.
A player who meets the criteria the coaches set for this award will have his name engraved and placed on the plaque which will hang in the field house following the jamboree on May 18.
Some of the criteria include being present at all spring football practices and jamboree, being a team leader and illustrating a passion for the Green Wave football program.
"This award will be given annually to the player who most exemplifies hard work, determination, leadership and character during the month of spring football practice at North Delta," Russo said.
Russo will be introducing new offensive and defensive schemes during spring practice.
"Our goals first and foremost are learning the new offensive and defensive system and make sure we are putting our kids in the best possible position where they can succeed and help the team," he said. "If we come away from these four weeks of doing that, get after the two teams coming to our jamboree, and come out healthy, I’ll say it was a very much accomplished spring training."
As new head coach, Russo has not seen firsthand what the returning players did on the field, but he said he has watched tapes of last year’s games.
"That doesn’t translate since we won’t be using the same offense and defense," he said, in reference to what happened on the field. "What I was looking for was hustle and determination, regardless of what the scoreboard said."
According to Russo, this spring he will be looking for the same hustle and determination.
"Every day in spring practice, it is not always going to be fun, it’s not always going to be easy," he said. "I want to see who perseveres through that, who’s encouraging, who’s being a leader."
North Delta will have 20 practices in a 30-day time span, which is different from the public schools who can only practice 15 days, which includes the spring game.
"We will have more time than I am actually used to for spring," he said. "We will take 18 practices, five of which will be shorts and t-shirts. We are not required to do that. I like that because those are good teaching days. Then we will have our jamboree."
Even though that Friday is not a practice per se, it will be a closure for spring and get ready for summer workouts, Russo said.
The new coach was proud to relate that team morale is "incredible."
"For the lift a thon held Tuesday, the guys really worked," he said. "They went out and got donations and they got pledges and we have already raised over $4,000. Community support has been tremendous and the boys’ efforts have been tremendous. As far as morale goes, I can’t be happier."
Russo named a few team leaders he has seen emerging since he has been at North Delta. He named Jon Michael Ware as always present and enthusiastic. He spoke of the character of J.T. Dalrymple, who does odd jobs without being asked.
"That’s special," Russo said. "What do you do when nobody’s looking? That’s character."
Russo was very complimentary of Dakota Mabry, who gives "full effort."
"One day we had a competition and he pushed his body way to the limit," Russo said.
Emerging as leaders are Blane Joyner, Austin Atkinson and Josh Ratliff .
"It’s really great because they are offensive linemen," Russo said of Atkinson and Ratliff. "We will go as far as our offensive linemen will take us."
As for filling in the positions, Russo said he and the other coaches met April 13 from 7 to 10:30 p.m. and put in the whole defense. They were scheduled to put together the whole offense last night.
"We put them where we will practice them at least in the beginning," he said. "We may get in the spring and say this guy is a not a defensive tackle and he needs to be moved to defensive end, etc.
"We are putting in the hours to make sure we are putting the kids in the best place they can be," he said.
North Delta will host the jamboree Thursday, May 18.
| 2006 NORTH DELTA
||West Memphis C.S.*
| *District 1-A Game
All games 7:30 p.m.