By Will McClure
Even during one of the hottest times of the summer, the heat would not stop the Stamford Bulldogs from getting back to work as they began two-a-days last Monday, August 3. With water at the ready for the 70 players participating in the football program, the seven coaches, led by Athletic Director Ronnie Casey in his second year as head coach, began getting the boys prepared for the first games of the season, which will begin with two scrimmages against Clyde and Jim Ned. After the end of a particularly hot session, Coach Casey was able to talk about the sessions and the season that awaits the Stamford Bulldogs.
With the addition of two new faces on the coaching staff, Thomas King and Jason Gorman, Coach Casey said that it felt great to be back after the long summer break, with everyone having high expectations for the season ahead. Although the team lost eight players due to graduation, six of them lineman thus making it difficult to fill the line, Casey said that he is hopeful for the season ahead with a lot of great skill players back for another year. He noted how quarterback Ligon West, returning for his second year as starting quarterback, has grown a lot over the past year.
“We had some kids [last year] that had to grow up. Ligon came on never playing quarterback at all and stepping in there and playing and doing an outstanding job. They grew up a lot,” Casey said. Building on the success from last year which resulted in the Bulldogs winning their fourth District championship in a row, Casey said that the coaches are pushing the players to be successful. He said that the players expect and know that the coaches want them to be successful. Casey attributed a lot of that expectation to the leadership that came before the players. That leadership and motivation allowed the Bulldogs to win District for the fourth straight year against all odds where everyone, with the exception of the coaches, parents and Stamford community, believed that they could not achieve that level. Casey noted that this season will be another tough year for the Bulldogs with a loaded schedule and tough teams, seeing the improvements in their opponents over the past year. However, Casey said that the Bulldogs are trying to piece everything together by paying attention to detail for every single place as well as bringing up the level of intensity. He said that unlike other teams that are trying to get something accomplished, the Bulldogs are focused on doing everything the right way.
When speaking about the team as a whole, Casey said that there has to be a lot of trust between the players and coaches. He noted how the players have respect for the coaches and vice versa, something that is very important in any team to make sure that everyone is on the same page. The Bulldogs strive to make the coaches happy in what they do and meet the expectations that are put upon them. When asked about goals, Casey said that the players are allowed to set their own goals and the coaches let them know that it is okay to make mistakes and not dwell on them. The support of the team will help them achieve their goals and dreams as they go through life in general.
“That’s the thing we want these kids to understand. We appreciate them and we love them and we want them to be out here with us because a lot of times it may not be about X’s and O’s and football; it’s about life in general. That’s the most important thing. We’re not going to continue to harp on them [for their mistakes]. We’re going to coach them up and be dream makers and not destroy their dreams,” Casey said.
Casey also said that those that have grown up within the Bulldog program have been taught the same skills and values since they began playing, stating how the kids that start in seventh grade are taught the same offense and same defense and are taught by the same coaches, noting that when one sees the seventh grade play, they see how Varsity plays. He said that the seventh and eighth graders are the future generation of the Bulldog program and that the coaches will not let them falter as they move up to each level.
Coach Casey concluded by saying that the athletic program has high expectations for the team as they are a part of a community of tradition and a community of champions, both on the field and academically. All of the coaches are doing their part to get the Bulldogs ready for the tough season ahead as they all work together towards that first game. The Bulldogs will once again be made of three teams: Freshman, Junior Varsity and Varsity. While two Freshman games had to be canceled due to the other teams not having a team, Coach Casey is optimistic about getting all three Bulldog teams on the field and playing.
Until the season gets fully underway, the Bulldogs will continue to train hard in preparation for their first scrimmage in Clyde this Saturday, August 15 at 7:00 pm. The Bulldogs first game of the season will be against Holliday on August 28 in their home opener. Even with a tough season ahead of them, the Bulldogs know that they have the support and encouragement of an entire community and Bulldog Nation behind them as they prepare for the first game. Good luck this season, and let’s go Bulldogs!