BELTON — Sometimes five is better than eight.
For the first time in its six years under head coach Rodney Southern, the Belton football team is scrimmaging after every five practices this spring. Years prior, they had only two scrimmages, or one every eight practices.
This year, the reason is simple. Belton needs more game situations before its spring game on May 31 at Tiger Field.
“We need to clean up the mental mistakes,” Southern said. “We can only put them in so many circumstances. ... The experience they are going to get it as game like as we can get it. ... These kids need more game situations that is why we go 5, scrimmage, 5, scrimmage, 5 and then go play our spring game.”
Part of that arises from Belton changing a bit of its offensive philosophy to fit its personnel. For the last five seasons, Belton has had primarily drop-back passers in David Ash and Peter Shelburne.
Both could make plays with their legs, but were first and foremost in there to throw the ball. Sophomore quarterback Shane Stafford, who is expected to win the starting job in the fall is more of a playmaker and runner.
“It is going to change our philosophy a little bit,” Southern said. “We were going to have go toward the running more just because of what our line and Shane does best.”
Nor will Stafford have experienced pass catchers like tight end Durham Smythe and receivers Derick Bates and Levi Jordan, whom Ash and Shelburne relied on.
“Shane is the first-, second- or third-fastest kid on our football team and obviously we have to try to take advantage of that,” Southern said. “Probably losing receivers affects that as much as anything. Derick started three years for us. You take him and Durham out and you change philosophy. That does not mean we are not going to throw the ball, but you change how you do it. When the strength of your team is your offensive line, you ought to be able to do whatever you want to do.”
That offensive line, which is expected to open holes for Belton’s option plays, are juniors Koby Williams and Justin Murphy and sophomores Zach Shackleford, Sam Hussey and Nick Baker.
Belton should also be strong across the ball, too. Defensive linemen Rodarius Birks, Cody Caswell, Colby Priest and Brandon Sullivan all got significant reps last season.
Behind them, though, Southern is still looking for answers.
“We are still young at linebacker,” he said. “You can replace athlete for athlete but the experience is where you are going to have some growing pains.”