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July 22, 2011
Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
HOOVER, Ala. - It wasn't exactly a no-win situation, but current Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter coach Jep Irwin was placed in a tough spot when he took the job last year.
"Transitions are always difficult," Irwin said. "It is made a little tougher when the team was 12-1 the year before and had a quarterback setting records, and then you come in with a young secondary and offensive line and a new quarterback."
Quarterback Hutson Mason was gone but the pressure was still there. But a 5-6 season with a 56-7 first round playoff beating did nothing to inspire fans.
"We still had high expectations with a young team," Irwin said. "I think this year we are much more prepared to have a successful season. There is familiarity and trust. We are getting better."
The success is showing at the National Select 7-on-7 as Lassiter and Class of 2013 quarterback Eddie Printz are having a very successful run through the pool play ending the regulation stages at 5-2.
"More schools would have interest in him if he had more time to visit them," Irwin said of his signal caller. "He is way ahead of where he was last year. He has a greater understanding of the offense and he hasn't missed a lot of passes."
Printz is not alone with frontline talent for the Trojans.
His performance at previous events has helped boost his stock.
"His reputation precedes him," Irwin said. "He is a three-year starter and is a lock-down player. Not many passes get thrown his way anymore."
Clark committed to the ACC school in January and remains solid to the program.
"He went up to their spring game and then met with Coach (Tom) O'Brien and he feels very comfortable with everything." Irwin said. "They are still recruiting him and doing a great job letting him know they want him and are happy to have him."
Irwin thinks this group of players are bound to improve on the results from last season.
"We have a lot of really good players this year and some surprisingly good young talent," he said. "Anytime you have Division I players, it makes a coach look better."
Shows steadily improving
West Monroe (La.) High head coach Don Shows did not travel with his football team just two weeks after suffering his third heart attack.
Representing the team at the National Select 7-on-7 was long time assistant and friend Jerry Arledge.
"He is fine," Arledge said. "He is back home resting, but believe me he won't change. He will be right back to eating chili cheese dogs in no time."
With expectations always high at West Monroe, the 76-year-old Shows is expected to be back and ready for the season opener and run a schedule that is as difficult as any the team has faced in recent memory.
"It was by design," Arledge said. "The last time we reclassified, we were in a nine team district and had eight set games so we didn't have much freedom. Now we are in a spot where we only have four district games and can schedule a little better competition."
The Rebels will take on Shreveport (La.) Byrd, Shreveport (La.) Calvary Baptist, Madison (Miss.) Central, Bastrop (La.) High and Cocoa (Fla.) High in non-district games this season.
"If we go undefeated, that is great," Arledge said. "But if Bastrop beats us, or if Cocoa beats us, that is OK too. Our goal is to qualify and play for states, so those games don't limit your opportunity to do that."
As far as his relationship with Shows, he expects nothing to change.
"I have known him since college and he has been a steady friend to me," Arledge said. "He showed me all the good hunting and fishing spots and I helped him graduate."
West Rowan working on reputation
Summer passing league events are generally not the place for running teams to showcase their ability.
However, Mt. Ulla (N.C.) West Rowan is using any exposure as good exposure.
"We tell folks that we are from Salisbury," head coach Scott Young said. "But I bet only 15 percent of the people in Salisbury know were Ulla is."
Young has been the head coach at West Rowan for 13 years and has taken the program from what he describes as "cow pastures and corn fields" to the RivalsHigh 100 rankings.
"We are honored to be known on a national level," he said. "It took a long time to build that national reputation."
Currently the Falcons own the nation's longest active winning streak at 46 games, and coming to an event like this is an opportunity to showcase the team.
"We will be as strong up front as we have ever been," Young said. "Problem is, that doesn't matter here so we will need some of our skill guys to step up and maybe do some things that we won't normally ask them to do."
The early results were anything but national rankings-worthy as the team was beaten by Mandeville (La.) High, 45-9.
"There are teams here that throw the ball more than we do," said Young, who admitted he has had seasons where he would give the ball to his running backs 40 times and throw fewer than five times. "But we are out here to compete."
Small school getting big
Entering his seventh season at Aurora (Ill.) Aurora Christian, Don Beebe is more excited than any of his previous as the school's head coach.
"We have had years where our biggest guys were 190, maybe 200 on the offensive line," he said. "This year, we are huge."
By huge, Beebe is speaking in relative terms.
The linemen will weigh in at 230, 286, 218, 225 and 256 across the line.
"I have never had that kind of size before," he said. "We only lost two on offense and one on defense. I think we have a good chance to make a run in our class."
Aurora Christian is a Class 3A school in Illinois and lost last season in the quarterfinals.
With a Division I quarterback in Anthony Maddie and a plethora of skill players, Beebe says his bag of tricks could open up.
"I could run the ball if I wanted to," he said. "We like to spread it out and use our speed but if folks try to take that from us, we can run out of our base formation and move the ball."
His plan is still to move the ball through the air and rely on Maddie.
"He is probably as good of an athlete as I have worked with on the high school level," Beebe said.
He quickly added that Maddie needs to continue to improve on the timing of his throws.
"The windows close quickly," Beebe said. "And so you need to have your timing down. You can throw a ball end-over-end but if it is at the right time, it will be effective."