HILLSBOROUGH — Person High School football coach Joey Carroll finally got the chance to see his team in a real life, full-pad situation against a team wearing a different color uniform.
The first word that came out of his mouth after Saturday morning’s scrimmage at Orange — positive.
And it was an understandable thought after the Rockets’ varsity team held Orange scoreless during the scrimmage and scored three times, including once on the final sequence of downs.
“The first takeaway is that we, as a staff, saw the things we wanted to see,” Carroll said. “At this point in the season, there’s going to be more questions than answers. You’re just trying to find answers. I think we found some. Our players and staff know that we’ve got a long way to go. We’re nowhere close to where we want to be, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
The Rockets had their moments in the scrimmage that consisted of alternating 10-play sequences that started at the 40-yard line. Person scored on its opening drive when quarterback Ridge Clayton connected with Preston Carr for a touchdown inside the 10-yard line.
Person scored again on its final drive of the game when they started inside the Panthers’ 20-yard line and had five plays to score. Carroll saw several positives from the way his team adjusted to its new, more spread out offense scheme — most notably the play of the offensive line against the Panthers’ odd-man front.
“They did a whale of a job up front and were able to create some creases,” Carroll said. “Sometimes, they got us, but the offensive line exceeded expectations. Again, we’re not where we want to be, but they really brought their game from the practice field. We had a really good day Thursday (at practice) and brought it back out here.”
The Rocket defense kept the Orange offense out of the endzone for the entire scrimmage and gave up just a handful of big plays. Defensive back Jailin Smith had a huge day with two interceptions, including one where he outfought a Panthers’ wide receiver for the ball on the ground and hauled it in before it hit the grass.
The Panthers’ use a run-heavy double-wing scheme, but the Rockets were able to stifle the ground game throughout.
“We talked to our kids a little bit about the double wing,” Carroll said. “Maybe another thing we learned was that our kids can grasp a little more than even they think they can. It wasn’t perfect. We probably had a few blown assignments, but they adapted. That’s a little bit of adversity. They’ve been practicing against our offense and you’re thrown in against a double-wing, double-tight and I’m glad we saw that and that we responded well.”
The Person football team will continue preseason practices this week and will host a Meet the Rockets night Friday at 7 p.m. at Rocket Stadium.
They will open the season Friday, Aug. 23 at home against Jordan.
“I think we’ll just keep building on the positives and learn from the negatives,” Carroll said. “I think our practice habits are getting much better. They’re understanding the tempo we want to run in practice. Our practices are more efficient and we’ll stay on that trend.”