Panther football team embracing challenge

August 23, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs players accepted a challenge from first-year head coach Todd Wood at the beginning of preseason football practice.

Exercising prevention measures against the threat of corona virus remains a priority, but Wood asked his players to take advantage of every day in becoming better football players.

“Our motto has been not how we start, but how we finish,” Wood said. “Every time we go onto the field, it could be the last time. I told the players you must live the moment and understand tomorrow is not a guarantee.”

Wood said his players quickly accepted a new philosophy. COVID-19 changed some aspects of practices, but Wood said he was pleased overall how his players responded.

“Everything has been a challenge {COVID-19},” Wood said. “Everyone was happy when we started conditioning work and now in practice. We do have some limitations at practice, but the players have been learning a new offense and defense.”

Coaches and players began the catch-up work in June when the Arkansas Activities Association authorized schools to conduct conditioning workouts. Preseason practice began on time.

Wood talked with players about the importance of progressing every day and stressed that hard work would help in closing the gap of no spring practice.

“I told the players that we were behind because of COVID-19,” he said. “We knew the hand dealt to us with few returning players. I have no problem with that, and building a foundation for a successful program.”

Wood liked how the high school and the junior high teams improved throughout August.

“We have the beginning of good things, but we have a long way to go,” he said. “I’ve been pleased with the junior high team. We have taken the first steps of building a program, and it starts with the current players.”

The Panthers will host Johnson County West Side in a benefit game starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Wood said COVID-19 could force a change in schedule, but he said the game is important for the development of players heading into the regular season.

“We are working on putting players in the right positions,” Wood said. “The players are ready to go against players who are not their teammates. I hope we can play the benefit game because we need that experience going into the first game.”

After the benefit game, the Panthers will focus on the season opener at home against Newport on Sept. 4.

“We continue working for the first game,” Wood said. “The players are hungry to play football again and look at this as an opportunity. They understand what we must do and what is necessary to get back on the field.”

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