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Learning and winning in junior high pigskin

News editor

While Brian Simmonds is on the sidelines Fridays as a high school assistant football coach, Thursdays have been glances into a crystal ball of Peabody-Burns football’s future as junior high head coach.

He liked what he saw this season.

“We ended up 5-2,” Simmonds said. “We had one forfeit our last game. It was really exciting to watch them really develop and get better throughout the season.”

Losses to Canton-Galva and Little River were bookends to a four-game streak that included wins over Solomon, Goessel, Herington, and Rural Vista.

Key among those was a two-point win against Goessel that went down to the final play.

“One of our player’s grandfather passed away, and the players rallied around him,” Simmonds said. “They played for him in that game. They had to make a stop to win the game and they did it. You could just see the confidence level of the kids take off from there.”

With just seventh and eighth graders, assembling a competitive team is an annual juggling act of moving players around to build on their growth and developing talents. Further adjustments were necessary when some players became ineligible due to grades, and again when a couple of them worked their way back onto the team.

“The success of the team makes them want to be there,” Simmonds said. “It’s a life lesson beyond that. There are times when life is going to throw you some hard lessons and you have to overcome those to be the person you want to be.”

At the controls of the offense this season was quarterback Phillip Young, whose brother Bryant calls signals for the high school Warriors.

“This year he really grew into the role,” Simmonds said. “This year his strength and accuracy was much better.”

Noal Reynolds took most of the handoffs from Young.

“He had to step in last year because of some adversity,” Simmonds said. “He did a tremendous job both offensively and defensively. He had one game where he just ran all over.”

Would-be tight ends Thomas Smith and Jake Partridge both ended up playing guard to provide solid blocking, but they weren’t totally excluded from touches.

“There were a couple of times we had guard-eligible plays where some of our kids who moved got to catch the ball,” Simmonds said.

A newcomer at defensive end and offensive line was Jonathan Glover, who learned quickly, Simmonds said.

“Our first game, he was really a fish out of water,” he said. “As the season went on he really picked it up.”

Seventh-graders who stepped up to fill in gaps included Westin Gaines at center and Jesse Talkington on defense.

A secondary responsibility for Simmonds is preparing his charges to transition to high school football. Preseason workouts were done in conjunction with the high schoolers, providing exposure to drills and models. While Simmonds chooses offensive and defensive sets to suit his personnel, there’s still some continuity with the high school team.

“We use the same terminology so that when they get to high school the language is the same,” he said.

Simmonds was pleased with how his team adapted to changes during the season.

“When you talked to the kids and explained that this was best for the team, they weren’t always happy with the decision, but they did it,” he said. “The biggest part was doing what was best for the team. These are life lessons; they’re not just about sports.”

Last modified Oct. 19, 2017

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