Since the final game of last season, when Copperas Cove eliminated Harker Heights from playoff contention, the message has been the same for the Knights — they had to get mentally tougher this offseason.
One week into spring practice, Heights head coach Jerry Edwards said he is already seeing early returns on that mentality.
Heights wrapped up its first week of spring practice with a scrimmage Friday and, for Edwards, it was a week that went beyond his expectations.
“We came out there, and the kids are fired up and energetic and we’ve been learning and picking things up,” Edwards said.
While Edwards said at the start of spring practice that his primary goal for his team was to learn, adding mental toughness has been an underlying theme for the Knights the entire offseason.
“We’ve carried that over because we want people to know what that shield represents and they’re going to get a hard-nosed, tough football team that’s going to put up a fight every Friday night,” Edwards said.
One place where Edwards has already seen that embodied is on the offensive line.
Heights enters 2014 needing to replace four of its five offensive linemen, including All-District 8-5A second-teamer Joseph Alaniz.
Yet Edwards said players have answered the call and that there will be many suitors to step up as replacements.
“I’m really proud,” Edwards said. “I knew going into spring ball that we were going to have to find four new offensive linemen, and we’ve had quite a few kids step up and try to lay claim to that and they’ve been battling.”
But as quarterback Troy Smith pointed out on the opening day of spring practice, Heights wants to be defined by how it reacts during the highs and the lows, remaining mentally strong at all times.
“As a team, we need to focus on keeping our heads straight and not putting our heads down after anything that we have fallen to and staying together as a family,” Smith said.
But even Smith acknowledged that, for the time being, just being out there with his teammates was an exciting step to take in preparing for next season.
“It’s just good to be out here and work our new strength and speed together,” Smith said.
And Smith wasn’t alone.
For Edwards, the first week was even better than he anticipated.
“It’s been a really, really good, positive week,” Edwards said.