“It’s going well, considering the heat. We’ve been impressed with what the kids have given us, and it speaks a lot about their character,” Phillips said.
Because of the heat, the Crusaders have started their practices at 7 p.m. and normally have finished around 9 p.m.
Phillips said the team has used the majority of those two hours of practice to work on a defense that gave up 41 or more points in five games during the 2006 season.
“It would demoralize the team last year to start the game and after the third play be behind,” he said. “Defense will give us the best chance to win.”
Specifically, the run defense. Phillips said he has been impressed with the team’s defensive line and its penetration into the backfield.
“Our defensive line is very quick and they do a good job getting through the line of scrimmage,” he said.
While the front line has impressed the coach during the early practices, Phillips said he will continue to monitor the linebacking corps. He said three of the linebackers are new to the position, resulting in a lack of experience that could hamper the team in the early season games.
On the offensive side of the ball, Phillips’ main concern has been ball protection. He said much of the offense’s problems last season stemmed from an inability to hold on to the ball.
“We don’t want to drive down the field and put the ball on the ground like last year,” he said.
Phillips said the offense has not progressed as fast as the defense largely because the team spent most of the spring practices concentrating on defense. However, during the spring the Crusaders were able to create a passing attack which Phillips hopes will bring excitement to the players and the fans.
“Nobody has seen it thrown much in Griffin,” he said.
Led by quarterback Chris Lawver, a transfer from Griffin High School, and a receiver corps of Kevin Abercrombie, Camden Mullis, Alex Wandless and Ethan Rowe, the Crusader offense will be on display during Griffin Christian’s scrimmage on Aug. 24 against Strong Rock and Young Americans.
The scrimmage starts at 7 p.m. at Griffin Christian and will be preceded by a barbeque fund-raiser.