Quitman lost several key players to graduation from a senior class that led the school to 14 wins over three seasons, including a school-record seven victories in 2011, plus two playoff consecutive appearances in 2010-11.
On Monday morning, with 18 players dressed out, the thin Bulldogs opened fall camp looking to make the most out of what they have.
Bulldog Coach Fritz Heidenreich, who enters the season with an overall record of 18-24, said he expects to have 21 players by next week, when Quitman will don full pads for the first time.
“We’ve got three guys that are gone on vacation that I already knew about. We are pretty thin. It’s a lot less than we are used to but every one of them should be able to step out on the field. If we can get 21 out there and all of them can play we will be okay,” added Heidenreich.
With speakers pumping in a wide array of music from nearby Bulldog Stadium, the team prepared on a soggy practice field following a storm, which forced the Bulldogs to take cover for a short period due to lightning.
“I thought they looked real good man,” said Heidenreich. “We got a little rain early and we had to go in for lightning. But they worked hard.”
Quitman started practice working on defensive fundamentals before lightning caused a delay. Upon returning to the field, the Bulldogs worked on defensive alignment then went to offense, working primarily on pass routes while getting the running backs in tune on base plays and fakes in the play-action passing game.
Junior Michael McRae (5-10, 170), senior Hadley Martin (6-2, 185) and junior Royce Katzer (5-6, 150) showed the ability to make plays in Quitman’s wide-open, spread passing attack. Heidenreich said sophomore Treavor Williams (6-1, 160) and senior Lake Davis (6-0, 170) will also rotate at receiver.
“Royce and Michael are going to be our go-to guys. We are also hoping Treavor Williams steps up as a sophomore and Lake Davis as a senior,” said Heidenreich.
Martin, one of the Bulldogs most versatile players, could share time in the backfield with sophomore Chris Milam (5-10, 180) and junior DJ McVay (5-9, 170), who was absent from Monday’s practice.
Senior tackle Jacob Carr (5-10, 250), one of three returning starters on the offensive line, has stepped up as a team leader.
“Jacob does a good job leading the guys out,” said Heidenreich. “But, we really don’t have a lot of vocal guys. He is probably the one that is most vocal and will step up and get them going. A lot of them will work hard they just don’t say a lot.”
Junior center Ty Davis (6-2, 190) and senior left guard Eugene Peguese (5-11, 230), who earned 5-2A all-conference honors last season, provide Quitman with an experienced front on offense. First-year senior Daniel Strain (5-7, 240) is working with the first team, while junior Josh Harrison (6-2, 265), sophomore Darrick Sullivan (6-2, 160) and South Side Bee Branch transfer Garrett Roberts are competing for playing time.
Page 2 of 2 - “Ty, Eugene and Jacob are our three big linemen that we are counting on big time,” said Heidenreich.
Junior quarterback Walker Johnson (6-2, 200), who passed for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall, took all the snaps at quarterback on Monday while battling wet conditions.
The Bulldogs, who closed practice by running their hurry-up no huddle offense up and down the field 10 times for the purpose of conditioning and precision, host Augusta to start the regular season on Friday, Sept. 6.
Quitman prepares for its season opener with a scrimmage at Marshall on Thursday, Aug. 29, starting with the junior high at 6 p.m. and the Bulldogs will follow around 7 p.m.