2013-08-16 / Sports

High School football practices kick off

With August arriving, it means the start of football practice. For two programs, Heathwood Hall and Cardinal Newman, the start of the 2013 season brings hopes of building off their 2012 accomplishments.

While the 2012 season ended with a losing record for Cardinal Newman, optimism abounds off Forest Drive. The four wins last year were more than the previous three years... combined. The Cardinals also ventured into the postseason for the first time since 2004. Other firsts included a homecoming win, the first since the 1990s, and a win over Heathwood Hall, the first since 2000.

With that in mind, the Cardinals hit the practice field with high hopes. One bright spot for Cardinal Newman last season was running back Zakki Parker who led the Cardinals in rushing with 1,034 yards.

Parker says he has a goal of reaching 2,000 or even 3,000 yards in 2013. His off-season has been filled with weight lifting and agility training.

Along with his rushing total, Parker was also encouraged by the surprising season the Cardinals had.

“It gave me a lot of excitement,” Parker said. “Just knowing that people didn’t even think we would make it that far, it excited me knowing that if we put in more work, we can go farther this season.”

While Parker will lead the offense, 2012 leading tackler Garrett McNerney will lead the defense.

“I’m not going to try to think about tackles this year,” McNerney said. “I just want to remember the fun- damentals about making the tackles rather than keeping score of how many tackles I can get. I just want to make the best plays that I can.”

Leadership will be sorely needed for the Cardinal Newman defense, which allowed over 33 points per game last season. McNerney says he has spent the off-season working on just that.

While last season didn’t work out as well as McNerney would have liked, he believes their wins and progress make a statement for the Cardinals.

“ It shows huge improvement in what this program can do. Working hard pays off. This season, I feel like we can make a huge improvement.”

At Heathwood Hall, the Highlanders hit the practice field hoping to get over the hump in coach Jon Wheeler’s third year. Heathwood Hall improved from two wins in 2011 to three in 2012.

For senior quarterback Will Detwiler, it is his third year in Wheeler’s system.

“ The offense has changed all three years I’ve been here, and it just takes every day to get use to it,” Detwiler said. “My comfort with the coaches is great.”

While the win total hasn’t been where the Highlanders would have liked, each year has ended with a trip to the playoffs.

“We’ve made the playoffs the last two years, and that’s not good enough for me. My senior season, I want to do something great and make it count...to have something to remember the rest of my life,” Detwiler said.

According to Wheeler, Heathwood Hall needs to finish out games. That comes from good leadership, an area that both Detwiler and senior linebacker Mac Ellen have worked on during the summer.

“I’ve just been getting behind the younger guys and teaching them the ropes,” Detwiler said.

For Ellen, 2013 marks a return to the gridiron. After missing out the 2012 season with an ACL injury, preseason practice is a welcome sight.

“I learned about mental toughness—how to get through some adversity,” Ellen said. “I learned how to be there for the team and contribute in other ways than on the field. I learned how to be there for my teammates and how to support them.”

For both teams, August marks the beginning of a new season and new expectations. For those expectations to be met however, the price will be paid both in the weight room and on the practice field.

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