With temperatures nearing 95 degrees at McKinney North High School on Tuesday night, the Bulldog football team prepared for its annual Blue vs. Orange Spring Game in front of several parents, students, and fans. After the final seconds were counted down on the scoreboard, I think everyone involved in or watching the game was probably pretty relieved that the month was still May and not August.
The Orange squad won 6-0 over the Blue squad, with Ben Dutze’s long strike to Evan Jones in the second quarter being the only scoring play of the game. While the final scores in spring games are not important, the practices leading up to the scrimmage and some of the finer details during the game are what head coach Mike Fecci and the rest of the Bulldog coaching staff are looking at closely as they wrap up the 2012 offseason. When asked about how he felt his team performed on Tuesday night, Fecci felt good about the overall mentality of his squad and coming out of the scrimmage unscathed injury wise.
“I thought it was good,” said Fecci. “There wasn’t a whole lot of emotion to it, and that was a little bit disheartening, but at the same time you have a veteran group out there and they keep a lot of things in perspective. I thought we played hard. I thought we got a little winded; obviously in the spring we don’t condition them like we do in the fall, and that showed up a little bit tonight. But for the most part I was real pleased. I think we got out of it real healthy and that’s what we wanted for sure.”
This is an important year for North as it wants to sustain the momentum of reaching the playoffs last fall for the first time since 2006. The Buldogs went 6-4 during the regular season and lost its first playoff game to Frisco Centennial.
After several weeks of practices leading up to the game, Fecci loved the way that each side of the ball showed major improvements with each workout, including the emergence of Dutze, the a former JV quarterback, who had an impressive spring game as well.
“Everyday was a day we built upon the day before which was good. I thought our defensive kids got better each day picking up the scheme that Coach Thompsons bringing in to us, and offensively we got better,” said Fecci. “We obviously got a kid stepping up off our JV in Ben Dutze playing quarterback and he got better and better each day. Our offensive line gelled together; we got three back there and we moved a couple kids around and they got better.”
However, Fecci does believe that the Bulldogs had one day in which things just didn’t go right this spring, but to limit the damage to just one practice is a testament to the leadership of this team, he says.
“We only truthfully had one bad day in spring where I felt like it was just not a good day, and that is a tribute to these guys and these coaches for coming out and working. Spring can get boring in a hurry because you are going against each other all the time and you don’t have anything to look forward to.”
While the Bulldogs have eight starters returning on the defensive side of the ball, a new defensive scheme has been the focal point of the practices this spring. This scheme revolves around getting to the quarterback and being aggressive in creating takeaways, proven by the yells of “strip the ball, strip the ball!” by the players on the sideline during every carry made by the quarterback or the running back.
On offensive, there are only five returning starters. And that means that finding players to fill important positions, such as quarterback and the offensive line, were important to Fecci and his staff. In fact, when Fecci was asked what still needs improvement heading into the fall, consistency on the offensive side was No. 1 on his list.
“I think offensive consistency," he said. "We have a good opening drive and we put the ball on the deck and then we have a couple of turnovers that hurt us there. It’s just being consistent and that’s from being young and not having a couple of guys over there to understand the importance of that.”
Despite not putting up tremendous stats, Dutze’s performance under center on Tuesday night was just another step in the right direction for a kid that has been declared “the man” right now to lead this Bulldog team next fall.
“Dutze’s a good quarterback,” said Fecci. “He’s a great leader, which is what you want from a quarterback. He’s a bigger kid, he can run the football for us, and he’s got a strong arm. He’s a smart kid and he’s got a big upside to him that he is going to get better and better.”
However, Fecci believes that his other quarterbacks impressive performances during the game bares well for North in the future, creating competition and building a solid foundation of quarterback play for the next couple of years.
“Dutze’s the guy, but Cody Hensely and Gabe Constantine played well. We are going to try and have as many quarterbacks as we can get out there in the program, and those other guys did a good job. Ben did a good job; I was pleased with our quarterbacks for sure.”
Two other standouts in the scrimmage were Jones, who caught the only touchdown of the game, and defensive lineman Preston Speers, who played on the Orange squad and was a fixture in the Blue team’s back field for most of the evening. For Jones, his ability to play both sides of the ball will be huge for the Bulldogs this season, says Fecci.
“They played well. Speers did a good job and Evan will be a two-way kid for us and he did that tonight and we are excited for what he is bringing to us on both sides of the ball.”
With the spring officially complete for the North football team, the end of school and the subsequent beginning of summer means that there is no more team-organized practice until August. While it might be easy to just sit on the couch and enjoy the easiness of summertime, Fecci believes it is “critical” for his boys to stay active in working out and going into the regular season in shape and ready to go.
“I think it is going to be very critical that they get up here and they become involved in the Performance Course, which does our summer workouts," Fecci said. "I think it is critical and crucial that this group comes in and gets in shape so when we start on August the 13th, that first day, that we’re not worried about getting them in shape, we’re worried about getting better and we can just go from there Because we will blink and Newman Smith will be here and we’ll be playing.”
North will begin its 2012 regular season on Aug. 30 when the Bulldogs travel to Carrollton Newman Smith. Game time is 7 p.m.
Look for spring wrap-ups on Boyd and MHS after their spring games Thursday night rightowt here on TSB.
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