Trent Jones, for one, can feel the difference.
Playing football at Ellison has become “fun” again.
After not going through spring practices a year ago, when the former coaching staff opted for an extra week of fall practice instead, the rising senior quarterback was just excited to kick off the Trent Gregory era with a spring game.
“It was fun, it felt exactly like a Friday night game with the band and the Emeralds, it was fun to come out here and do that,” Jones said. “We haven’t had a spring game in two years.”
With the unveiling of a completely revamped Ellison football team, including new matte green helmets similar to those worn by Baylor last season, the Eagles players were just happy to be able to spread their wings and show off in front of a crowd.
“I think the attitude is a whole lot different, we want to come out here every day and have fun, go to work every single day after school — the offense is really fun so we love it,” Jones said.
Not that there weren’t plenty of mistakes, including about 100 yards in penalties.
“That’s the stuff I’m talking about that we need to fix and work on and we will,” Gregory said. “It’s just (about) getting good quality reps and it was good for the kids to come out and be in front of a crowd and the band and have the extra noise and take that experience on into (summer and) two-a-days.”
The Green team outscored the White 4-1 as defense seemed to get the better of both offenses early and often, with both the Green and White defenses securing interceptions on back-to-back drives to close out the scrimmage.
Junior quarterback Jacob Ledford, who’s in competition with Jones for the starting spot, was intercepted by Green cornerback Kaoss Mack on the second-to-last possession, and White defensive back Andrew Easley stepped in front of an underthrown Jones pass two plays later to get the ball back. The game ended when Green defensive end Lajarius Anthony got a hand on Ledford for a 10-yard sack.
“The defense was awesome, they were aggressive and attacked, swarming to the ball,” Gregory said. “The defensive coaches talk to them all the time about swarming — we need 11 hats on the football and they showed that today.”
Reserve running back Drequan Jackson scored a pair of first-half touchdowns for the Green team while potential starting tailback Sedderian Chambers carried much of the load in the second half. The 6-foot-2, 200-plus-pound bruiser busted in from 1-yard out to cap a five-play series. The drive also included a 25-yard pitch run to the left by Chambers and an 8-yard curl route from Jones to Hayward Clay to the 2-yard line to set up back-to-back runs by Chambers. Markus Carson scored the lone White team touchdown.
Clay might have thrown his hat into the quarterback competition with a double-pass play when he connected with a wide-open Corey Booker on a 30-yard touchdown for the Green team’s fourth score of the game.
And for a program in the midst of a two-year losing streak, the new wide-open attack has invigorated players to keep improving.
“We feel great actually. I feel last year in the wing-T, not a lot of people had an opportunity to showcase their talent, and in this offense we do,” Jones said. “We weren’t perfect in this offense, but we’ve only had three weeks to prepare in it ... so we’re going to keep working hard and by two-a-days (in the fall) we’ll be even that much better.”