The beginning of El Reno High School’s 2019 football season, even if it's only a brief two-week session, started Monday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
El Reno joined schools across the county and state with the first day of spring drills, which are closely regulated by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
“Spring drills are important because anytime you can get 10 days of football, that is a plus. We are at the point right now we don’t want to get anyone hurt and we want to keep them all healthy, so we will keep them minimized in what they are doing,” said EHS head coach Chuck Atchison.
Atchison begins his third spring drills as head coach following a 6-5 season in which El Reno ended a nine-year hiatus from the Class 5A playoffs after finishing fourth in the District 5A-1 race.
El Reno ended up taking on defending state champion Carl Albert in the bi-district round of the playoffs, losing to the Titans 28-7 in a game which was tied 7-all midway through the second period.
The 21-point loss to the Titans was still Carl Albert’s second closest game of the postseason and third closest of the 14-game march to a second consecutive 5A title.
Atchison says El Reno’s spring drills will be focused on building off the success of last season, while giving younger players a chance to move up on the depth chart.
“It’s a chance for our younger players to get some reps and see who can fill in the depth chart. It’s a time to see how much they have grown up from their freshman and sophomore years and see how they have improved in the weight room.
“It’s a chance for us to find kids that might be able to start and kids that can fill in on the depth chart and on special teams,” said Atchison.
The OSSAA allows teams 21 days after the conclusion of all spring semester sports to practice 10 days. Sessions can only last two hours and there cannot be more than two consecutive days of “thud or live action” drills.
Out of the 10 days of spring drills, teams cannot have more than six days of full contact sessions. Teams cannot have interschool scrimmages and only students currently enrolled at the school can take part in spring drills.
Atchison says El Reno will get in its full 10 days early and won’t use the full 21-day window.
“We’re going to get our 10 days in right now. We are going to have limited workouts because we know the kids that can play,” said Atchison.
Atchison, who is 11-10 overall in two seasons at the EHS helm, added the six contact days will be just that.
“We will get after it those days,” said Atchison.
Weather permitting, El Reno will cap off its 10 days of springs drills on Friday, May 24 with a 6:30 p.m. session open to the public.
“It won’t be a super heated event,” said Atchison.
The main focal point this spring, said Atchison, will be on the offensive line and in the secondary. Atchison will be taking over offensive line coaching duties.
“Our offensive line is going to be young. We have only two back from the five but we do have our tight ends returning. We are looking at having three sophomores on the line.
“We’ve got to work out some things on the line and in our secondary. While most teams in our district like to run, it doesn’t take very many throws to hurt you if you can’t cover well. We will play some different coverages and we need to get better at that. We are in good shape everywhere else,” said Atchison.
Spring will also be a chance for players to get used to a new assistant coach as Jeff Kline will join the EHS staff coaching receivers and special teams. Kline moves over from Bishop McGuinness.