LUMBERTON, Miss. —Hot weather and long hours could not even curb the enthusiasm among Brusly coaches during the second annual Panther boot camp here at Kings Arrow Ranch.
Brusly coach Erik Willis said he couldn’t ask for more from his players during the four-day camp last week at the football retreat near Hattiesburg.
“It’s going excellent,” head coach Erik Willis said. “Our guys are handling everything well, from the structure to the heat to the philosophy of the game.
“Best of all, we’re in shape,” he said.
The camp also gave Willis assurance about the offense, which seems to be coming together as the Panthers head into into the rigors of pre-season training
He’s particularly upbeat about the showing by starting quarterback Blake Manola, a senior who assumes the spot after playing second-string two years to Jay Christophe.
“Blake’s throwing the ball well and all the receivers are catching the ball,” Willis said. “That’s where we had our question mark, but it’s all coming together.”
The team aptly handled the rigors of camp, assistant coach Tait Dupont said.
“We were up at 2 a.m. for practice, but we’re trying to make them mentally tough,” he said. “They did a great job and were enthusiastic cheering each other on.”
“We’ve really gotten better the second year out here,” Dupont said. “It’s been a great bonding experience. The kids really worked hard.”
The practice sessions have also given backup quarterbacks a chance to prove their worth. The Panthers will have backup from junior Evan Daigle, sophomore Devin Hammond and freshman Connor Manola (Blake’s younger brother).
“With the competition we’ll face this season, we need some backup,” Willis said. “It’s all part of being able to adjust and overcome adversity.”
Defense didn’t disappoint, either, particularly in a 7-on-7 Saturday against 1A power West St. John.
“We’ve had a lot of 7-on-7s, and we’ve improved and have covered better,” Willis said. “The inside linemen were a concern, but they’re really coming along.”
Willis also got some encouraging news about Kwanston Askins. The incoming senior running back, who suffered a third-degree shoulder separation in summer baseball, may be able to return for the regular season opener against St. John.
“He said he’ll be back, but at what capacity we don’t know,” Willis said. “He said he’ll be in shape, and that the doctors will clear him in time for St. John.”
Askins remains optimistic that he will be on the field for Week 1.
“I’m feeling good, even though all the doctors will let me do now is the leg exercises,” he said. “Right now, all I can do here at camp is the leg exercises because I’m still doing rehab on my shoulders, but this is all going faster than anyone expected.”
But with Brusly’s good news came a dose of bad news.
Versatile senior standout Landron Andre could miss the entire season, thanks to a torn ACL he suffered July 18 n a scrimmage against Livonia.
“We weren’t expecting that after the MRI,”Willis said. “It’s a huge loss, but he’s really stepped up as a leader, even though he probably won’t be able to play his senior year.”
More than 60 players attended the camp, which will lead into two-a-day drills.
“We had some freshmen who couldn’t come and a few who decided they wouldn’t come,” Willis said. “And those are the guys who won’t be on the team.