High school football teams are afforded ample opportunities to grow during the offseason. There are summer conditioning and weightlifting sessions. There are the pre-season practices and jamborees, which is a fancy word for a scrimmage.
Van Horn coach Jeff Tolbert has no complaints about the amount of time he’s had to prepare for the season opener. It’s just that this season, he wishes he had more of it.
“I feel like we get quite a bit of time. The state allowed us a lot of time to prepare over the summer,” Tolbert said. “Despite that, I didn't feel like we’ve had enough time. We have so many new faces and new kids, there didn’t seem like there were enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we needed.”
The Falcons finished 7-3 last season, continuing a recent trend of strong football. Tolbert is entering his eighth season at the helm. Van Horn lost the first 21 games it played under Tolbert before reeling off three consecutive winning seasons.
Top returners include seniors JJ Rivers (RB), Demerick Fruean (OL) and junior lineman Cody Storey, who has started since he was a freshman.
If that list seems short, there’s a good reason for it.
“We lost a lot. We had a pretty good senior class,” Tolbert said. “We not only lost a lot of talent, but a great deal of leadership as well.”
The Falcons know what it’s like to start from scratch. Now that they’re going forward, the goal is to keep going forward.
“I think we’re as physically talented as we’ve been,” Tolbert said. “I think our biggest task is to learn to play as a team. We can do some things if we overcome that obstacle.”