LOCUST GROVE, OK —
When Matt Hennesy arrived to head the Locust Grove football program in 2012, the Pirates were a few steps behind the competition.
With two seasons under their belts, the Locust Grove players are right where Hennesy wants them — and maybe a little further ahead.
“While other guys are using spring ball to point out the A gaps and B gaps, we're already running through most of our playbook,” Hennesy said after Thursday's practice. “We ran through everything I had on the defensive script in about 15 minutes.”
Hennesy returns eight starters on both sides of the ball, but filling the gaps the graduates leave behind remains a top concern for the coaching staff. An especially important void is left by Northeastern State commit and District 3A-7 Offensive Player of the Year Ryan Woolman, who attended practice Thursday as a spectator.
“Replacing Ryan is tough,” Hennesy said. “We've got some guys that are stepping up and looking good [on the line]. Ethan Bluebird is looking strong, Will Bates is playing well.”
Even last year's leading tackler, rising junior Trevor Taylor, got in on the line, volunteering to take a few snaps at center.
Taylor led a linebacking corps that saw some changes this spring, including moving Alex Hix to inside linebacker and Vance Wilson to an outside slot.
Wearing no-contact red jerseys Thursday was the electric tandem of quarterback Mason Fine and wide receiver Jason Pirtle (shoulder). Hennesy will count on the rising juniors to provide the offensive spark in the fall, especially after losing two-way star Cameron McIntire to graduation.
Between now and the fall is when Hennesy expects the team to make its biggest strides.
“Our summer pride [workout regimen] has been the difference, I've said that from the beginning,” Hennesy said. “It creates a mindset that we're tougher than anyone else. No one's going to outwork us.
“There's a big difference in thinking something and believing something, and we believe that we'll be the best team in 3A this year.”