Gridiron-ND Green Wave
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 28, 2007
ND hungry for more than playoffs, wants state
By Angie Ledbetter
The North Delta football season kicked off under the leadership of second year head coach Richard Russo.
The Green Wave began the season with a 40-22 win over Strider Academy Friday night.
Russo said his first year was a very positive experience.
“I came in with a group of seniors who had played their entire life under one coach. They had a whole lot of adjustments not to just X’s and O’s but to the way I run the football program. Most of them bought into it. The result was a winning regular season and a trip to the playoffs.”
Russo said no one was satisfied with just making the playoffs.
“It left me extremely hungry.”
Being head coach was everything that Russo thought it would be.
“I saw first hand the amount of hard work and dedication that the coach at Bruce put into it,” he said. “It was his whole life besides God and his family. He put his heart and soul into it. I knew it would be like this. I crave the opportunity and really enjoy it.”
First year as head coach, going to the play-offs was good, according to Russo.
“It was a nice experience but it left me hungry for more,” he added. “Just going to the playoffs is not good enough for me. We want the district championship, we want to advance to the north half championship, and we want to advance to the state championship and win.”
Russo made several changes to the football program, but one big change that he is proud of is the chaplain, Bro. Eric Payne. Every Friday after the pep rally, Payne gives the young men a 10-minute devotion.
The change John Howell has brought to the school is every Wednesday, the athletes have chapel with the FCA program. They also hear it every Thursday at break.
Spring and Summer
Russo talked about spring practice.
“It was outstanding,” he said. “I would grade it an ‘A.’ It was the most fun that I’ve ever had in a spring practice. The spring game was a different story. It wasn’t the same team that practiced every day.”
Coming out of spring, the tight end position and the tailback position were the coaches two biggest worries.
Answering the call for the tailback position was Devin Maples who now owns the No. 1 spot.
“We’re excited about that,” Russo said. “The tightend position is still being a battle right now between Bateman Greenlee and Cameron Goodwin.”
For the second year, summer workouts were phenomenal, according to Russo.
He said every player on the team had 30 workouts. Britt Lawrence led the team with 54 workouts and Josh Garrott was the senior with the highest of 53.
The heat was a major factor this summer.
“We are aware of the heat,” he said. “But at the same time, if you do not get in shape, and you come to the games and your adrenaline is going in these three hour games where you give it your everything that you’ve got, that is when you’re going to be susceptible to some heat illness.”
With some heat related deaths around the area, Judge Mitchell Lundy sent down an order demanding temporary outdoor practice and game suspensions for area schools.
North Delta took its practices inside for a couple days and practiced later at night for a while.
“I firmly believe that the judge’s heart was probably in the right place, but he went about it totally wrong,” Russo said. “He basically said, we didn’t love our kids to take care of them and we’re not educated enough to take care of them. But we adjusted and went on because in life everything is not always positive.”
This year, the Green Wave will be playing some new teams. They moved to “A” from “AA” based on enrollment.
“You don’t have as much control over your schedule as you do in the public schools,” Russo said. “Whoever they assigned us, we’e going to prepare and practice for it as hard as we can and prepare to win. We will take each opponent seriously.”
Friday night, the Green Wave will host Desoto. Coach Russo said he has been looking forward to playing Desoto for a year because last year when Desoto won 13-7.
The Green Wave coaching staff include Coach Lance Thomas and Coach Brad Wilson.
“Coach Lance Thomas is by far one of the best offensive line coaches in the state and I say that without hesitation,” said Russo. “He was highly sought after during this off season and he had several assistant coaching offers and several head coaching offers. But he felt like Batesville can be home, a place where he can plant roots down.”
Russo said he is fortunate that Thomas wanted to stay.
Russo describes Thomas as a very intense and high energy guy who demands perfection.
“He demands that the kids listen to him because he isn’t going to change,” Russo said. “It’s his way or the highway and I love that about him.”
The Green Wave is also fortunate to have Wilson on staff,
“From what I know about Coach Wilson is he was an outstanding high school player that played above his physical capabilities,” Russo added. “Everything that I’ve heard about his playing career has translated over into his coaching career. He gives it everything he has. He demands respect and he demands that his cornerbacks and receivers do it right. He is a high energy guy also and I love having him around.”
Coach David Hardy was assigned to the Pee Wee football program this year as head coach.
Going into spring training, North Delta only had five seniors, but that number has grown to eight.
Josh Garrott will give you everything that he has got and leave it all on the field, Russo said.
Russo said Don Phelps tries to be very technical and leaves it all on the field.
Andy Barns, Russo said, worked his way into the starting lineup with a stellar job against Magnolia Heights last year.
Quarterback J.T. Dalrymple had to learn two new positions and listened, took coaching, learned the feet work and the fundamentals, and made All District in both positions.
Devin Maples made a big impression in his first game back as a Green Wave.
Seth Barnett, who transferred to North Delta to play football with his buddy, Dakota Mabry, enjoys being on the football team and loves to catch the football.
Miguel Reyes transferred from South Panola and has committed his early adult years to serving our country. He is going to be a special teams warrior just like he is for our nation, said Russo.
Michael Johnson transferred from North Panola because he wanted a stronger academic back ground going into college. He is also excited about playing football, basketball, and baseball at North Delta. He is going to be an awesome offensive weapon for us, Russo said.
Russo has a very close relationship with his seniors.
“It is very hard when they leave, it just kills me,” said Russo. “We spend so much time with them. During football season, we are around them more than their parents. We give them a thing called a “Stop and think” card. It has my home and cell telephone numbers on it.”
Russo and his wife, Sara, have an eight-month-old daughter, Gabriella. The coaches take Saturday off. Russo and his family attends all the Mississippi State home football games.
Russo does not give any predictions for the season.
“I would never give a prediction on wins and loses,” said Russo. “We’re going to prepare to win every game. I expect to win every season regardless of the amount of talent or the lack thereof.”