FC football spring tune-up set

by Sean Dunlap

Franklin County High School’s spring football workouts will officially come to a close on Friday, May 12 as the Bulldogs will travel to Wesson to compete in a 5 p.m., contest against Provine of Jackson at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

FC Head Football Coach B.J. Smithhart said he has been pleased with what he has seen so far from the nearly 50 or so players that have taken part in a limited number of sanctioned pre-season drills.

“More than anything else — at this point — all our players are really getting a feel for what we expect from them,” he noted.

“There’s a lot to learn about the ins and outs of the game for those just coming in, and we’re working to build a fundamentally sound program.

“We’re also fortunate in that we have a number of returning players who have been part of this team and know what we want them to do and how we want things done.”

To that end, Smithhart said the latest incarnation of the Bulldogs’ varsity football team will feature a lot of seniors along with several juniors who have seen significant playing time.

Another positive for FC is an influx of sophomores in the line-up that will be looking to make an immediate impact and freshmen who will be looking to get their feet wet where the game is concerned.

“There are a lot of moving parts to a football team and the thing that we want this to be for new and returning players is a fun learning environment,” Smithhart said.

“We also want them to know that we mean business and their efforts put into preparation will certainly translate into playing time.”

The format for Friday’s contest between FC and Provine will include a regulation quarter of action followed by a 10-snap offensive series and a 10-snap defensive series with the teams’ second-string varsity players.

The primary varsity programs will then return to play a second regulation quarter and things will conclude with an eight-snap offensive and defensive junior varsity match-up between the two schools.

Smithhart characterized this week’s spring game as a reward for the players who have put a great deal of sweat equity into pre-season drills thus far.

“While we’re really not game-planning for Provine like we would during the week leading up to a regular season game, our focus is for the chance to compete against someone else and to get a feel for the pace of the game,” he went on to say.

“Even though a number of our players — like Donovan Moore, Quez Rancifer and Detrick Starks — were involved in the varsity baseball season which just ended, there has been good participation in our spring workouts.

“Other guys, like Zorian O’Quinn at quarterback along with Reshon Baker and Jaquez Anderson at receiver, have gotten some time in the rotation that we feel like will help them continue to grow. Other kids have moved in to different roles on the field and have done a great deal of learning and adjusting.”

Smithhart said one of his goals headed into FC’s 2023 campaign is to build depth throughout the team, and one area that has shown a lot of promise in that regard is the defensive line.

“We’re fortunate in that we have 10 to 12 kids who can play in this area, and that’s a real positive for what we hope to accomplish,” he added.

“The thing is that we don’t want these guys to get frustrated because they’re not in on every snap, but they must realize they will get a chance to get in the game at some point.

“We have some big, strong kids — especially at defensive end — that can run and really get in where we need them to be. As a whole, defense is going to be a strength for us with returning corners and safeties — Anderson, Baker and Moore — that will allow the front line to shine a little more.”

In regards to the offensive line, Smithhart said he feels like this part of his squad will be better overall with Assistant Coach Brad Calcote working to get players in the right spots.

Also on offense, Smithhart pointed out FC is fortunate to have several players who can play at quarterback — something he characterized as a plus.

“We have (Rancifer) and (O’Quinn) who can do it along with (Baker) and (Moore) if they had to step in,” he said.

“Tailback Xavier Rankin is really coming on; Jailon Brown, who hurt his ankle in the spring, is expected to be ready with a lot of speed in the fall; and Keyundre Felton is another good back for us that will be a go-to guy.

“Another player to watch for will be freshman Jakory Brown, who is a really good player and we’ll be looking for a lot from him in the years to come.”

Smithhart said he does not have the depth he would like to have at receiver, but has four players — including Baker, Moore, Anderson and Jevontae Walker — who can catch the ball and gain positive yardage.

“These guys can do some good stuff and we’ll be depending on them to make some big plays during the upcoming season,” he noted.

One area Smithhart hopes to see vast improvement is eliminating what he referred to as “silly and costly penalties.”

“This is where we’ve hurt ourselves in the past, and we’re looking to grow up a lot,” he continued. “This will require us to focus on the game and not do things that cost yardage — especially at big points in the game.”

Between the spring game and the end of the current school year, Franklin County football players will have just a little down time, but things will rapidly pick up pace as summer conditioning begins.

“Our summer program will begin the last Monday in May and we’ll be going on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and into the evenings until around 5:30,” Smithhart said.

“We also plan to take part in some summer camps, and the kids like to do that and tend to learn alot along the way. The goal is to build off a good spring where they’ve been doing things the right way.”