Tigers look to build on 1-9 season

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 28, 2005


MCKENZIE - It's back to the basics for McKenzie's football team.

The Tigers, who went 1-9 under first-year coach David Kirkland, began spring drills on Monday.

While Kirkland is heading into his second year at McKenzie, Monday marked his first spring as the Tigers' head football coach.

"We want to get some things accomplished this spring so that we end it on a positive note and have it carry over into the summer and back into the fall," Kirkland said.

Like last season, McKenzie will be a young team. Last year the Tigers were a freshman-ladden team. McKenzie will continue to be young this year with a majority of those freshmen returning for their sophomore season.

Kirkland said he has 10 starters returning on offense and defense, but his club is still "green and very young."

"They should be better having been a year older," he said.

So while other schools in the Butler County area are working to fine tune their offense or defense or look to plug a couple holes, Kirkland is busy teaching his young squad the basics of blocking and tackling this spring.

"I want to evaluate where the kids can play and what position," Kirkland said. "We'll see what they do and don't do well, build and learn from it and hopefully put ourselves in a good position heading into fall practice."

While Kirkland and his staff will be looking to find the right slot for his players, some positions are already sewn up.

Patrick Rudolph split time at quarterback last season with Jake Page, but Kirkland said that Rudolph will get the starting nod in the Tigers' spring ballgame at Kinston on May 13.

"Since he's just a sophomore, he's got plenty of time to improve," Kirkland said.

Page, meanwhile, will be one of two returning wide receivers in McKenzie's one-back fun-and-gun offense. Page, who was one of three eighth-graders to start last season, caught 30 balls while splitting time as the Tigers' quarterback.

"Most of the time we are in the shotgun (formation)," Kirkland said. "If (an opponent) stacks up in the box, then we'll throw it. If they try to stop us from throwing the ball then we'll run it right at them."

Although McKenzie will run a spread offense, Kirkland said the key to his club winning will be running the football.

"That's what wins ballgames," he said.

Joining Page at receiver will be Chance Davis, who caught 15 balls last year.

Joining Rudolph in the backfield will be Curtis Ball.

Paving the way for Ball and Rudolph along the offensive line are three returning starters in Nick Kelley, Tyler Bush and Eric Jernigan.

A majority, if not all, of the starters on offense will fill spots on defense.

But the majority of the work done during the next 14 practice days will be spent teaching and coaching fundamentals.

"That was the real struggle when I first came here in July," Kirkland said. "I felt like I was doing a lot of teaching in the fall, and I'm still doing a lot of teaching now. I'm trying to make it more simple for them with the terminology."

The Tigers will practice today in shorts and helmets for the final time and then begin full-pad practices on Thursday.

An intrasquad scrimmage is planned for May 6.