Optimism high but questions remain for Bulldogs

RODNEY HAAS/Miner<br> 
Kingman High running back Matthew Waite tries to avoids a Surprise Valley Vista defender during the Bulldogs’ 29-15 loss on Oct. 14 in Surprise.  After a successful summer workout program, KHS will begin practice Monday morning with tryouts. But as the Bulldogs open practice, there are still a lot of questions to be answered, such as the number freshmen that will show up.

RODNEY HAAS/Miner<br> Kingman High running back Matthew Waite tries to avoids a Surprise Valley Vista defender during the Bulldogs’ 29-15 loss on Oct. 14 in Surprise. After a successful summer workout program, KHS will begin practice Monday morning with tryouts. But as the Bulldogs open practice, there are still a lot of questions to be answered, such as the number freshmen that will show up.

After a successful summer workout program with more participants than in years past, there's optimism running through the Kingman High football program as the Bulldogs begin tryouts at 6:30 a.m. Monday.

But that sense of optimism might dissipate quickly if the there aren't enough freshman on that first day.

The opening of Lee Williams High School to freshmen only this year has left head football coach Rob York with a great unknown. How many freshmen will show up and will it be enough to field a team?

The worst-case scenario for York is to field only a varsity team. Best case would be to have enough players for freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams. The realistic scenario if there aren't enough players to field three teams is to have varsity and freshman teams and move the sophomore players who would normally play JV to varsity.

"I want to have three teams. I want to have a full program," York said. "We just need to get some freshmen to come out so we can have that freshman squad and I know all the (freshmen) kids that have been (to offseason workouts), they want a freshman team too."

York has had an average of around 45 players show up for summer weight training and summer conditioning, including 10-15 freshmen players.

When practice begins Monday, he would like to see 100 players. He is expecting between 60-70 players and with 60 players, it would be pushing it with two squads he said.

"It's going to be close," York said. "It depends on who shows up. If we have 30 freshmen show up and we have 60 kids, we can deal with that - 30 kids on varsity and the freshman can have their own program."

York won't know until after the first couple of weeks of practice if there will be enough players for three teams or if there will be just a freshman and varsity teams. Having two teams would give the varsity squad more depth by inserting sophomores in for three plays to give a break to a junior or a senior.

The sophomores "will get the experience and that is a huge, huge help," York said. "They could come in for one series on defense for one of our junior or senior linemen that are going both ways. That's a huge help as far as conditioning."

While York will figure out what to do with player numbers at a later time, he's still optimistic about the season after having a very successful offseason conditioning program. In years past numbers would range around 20-25 players showing up. This year that number was in the mid 40's and led by a junior class that hopes to reverse last year's 1-9 season.

Because of the offseason numbers, York can have actual tryouts for the first week of practice. Those players trying out and those players who have not shown up all summer for workouts will have to meet certain averages and marks set by players that have attended offseason drills.

"We got the kids that put the work in and we have enough where we can finally go, 'You know you don't deserve to be on the field,'" York said.

Because of the numbers situation, York isn't expected to make cuts. Instead, the players who didn't show up over the summer but still expect to play, will see their playing time relegated to the scout team and will have to prove to the coaching staff that they should be playing.

"They didn't put the work in over the summer," York said. "There are kids that are better than them and they deserve to go first. If they show us they can go through practice and have the pride on the scout team and they are kicking someone's butt and they put the work in, then there's a chance."

Besides tryouts, the other new change for the start of practice this year came from the Arizona Interscholastic Association, who is putting limitations on practices in order to avoid possible heat-related illnesses.

Because of this, KHS will hold morning workouts next week from 6:30 a.m. till 8 a.m., at which time the Bulldogs will do most of the conditioning work. KHS will return for a normal practice from 5:30-7:30 with the last half-hour being more of a walk through. "For us it's really not that big of a deal because it really doesn't get that hot," York said. "But down in Havasu is a big deal, and down in Phoenix is a big deal."

As KHS prepares to kick off the 2012 season to a lot of unanswered questions regarding the numbers, there is reason to hope that 2012 will be different from years past.

The incoming junior class has just three losses under their belt in two years and that same group was instrumental in making the summer workouts successful.

"This was the best summer we've had since I took over and hopefully it will carry on," York said. "We can finally make it to where the summer has meaning with the amount of kids that showed up."