Willis attributed a few factors for the strong showing the Panthers had Monday.
The early boot camp — two weeks prior to Monday — played a huge role, he said.
“We feel like we’re head of schedule because we went to camp early,” Willis said. “Right now, we’re just trying to polish up everything and not add anything.
“For now, it’s a matter of trying to tighten up the screws and bring this team to Broadmoor (for the Aug. 22 scrimmage) and do some work with the younger guys,” he said.
Mother Nature didn’t hurt things, either. Early afternoon thundershowers staved off the sun and heat to keep temperatures more bearable for practice.
Temperatures were in the mid-to-upper 80s around practice time, he said.
“The weather really cooperated,” Willis said. “We thought we would need water every fifteen minutes, but that little cool front gave us some relief, so we were able to go longer without interruption.”
It also allowed for a more physical practice the first day in full gear.
“It wasn’t a bloodbath, but it was one of the most physical practices we’ve had thus far,” Willis said. “We saw some of the best hitting we’ve seen thus far. The kids really had a good time out there.”
The first week of school also led to a more crowded sideline.
More than 10 freshman joined the team at the start of the 2013-14 school year, which brought the Panther head count past 80.
“Most of them came out when school started, but maybe half of them will make it,” Willis said. “But the numbers are great … we’re getting more and more kids out.”
The larger crop of ninth graders allows for a freshman team, along with the junior varsity and varsity squads, he said.
But it’s still up to the coaches to retain those players, Willis said.
“We’ve got to keep them happy and give them the attention they need,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of coaches, but they’re working hard to do that.”
The Panthers kick off the season at the Live Oak Jamboree. The junior varsity will play Aug. 29 and the varsity team will head into action the following night.
Brusly’s regular season begins against St. John, a team Willis coached to two runner-up spots in two separate stints at the school.