Countryside completed its finest season in school history in 2009, going 11-2 and advancing to the regional final before losing to eventual Class 5A state champion Plant.
If the Cougars hope to duplicate that success, however, they’ll have to do so with a virtually brand new cast of characters.
Nowhere is that more evident than at the top, where Jared Davis takes over as head coach for former coach John Davis, who left for Clearwater Central Catholic after eight seasons at the Cougars’ helm. Jared Davis, a 2002 graduate of Countryside, worked as a Cougars assistant coach from 2002-04, was a graduate assistant at USF for four seasons and spent last year as the defensive coordinator at Gibbs. This is his first head coaching job.
“It’s officially started, so that part of it is pretty neat,” Jared Davis said. “It’s pretty special, there’s no question about it.”
Countryside spent the first 15 minutes of practice stretching before breaking down into groups for specialized work. New starting quarterback Gray Crowshowed why he’s one of the more highly-touted signal callers in the area this year, displaying zip on his short passes and touch on the longer throws.
After about 45 minutes, thunderstorms forced Countryside to move its practice indoors, but while on the field, the theme for the day (and the rest of fall, according to Davis) was tempo.
“When I worked at college practices, it was always bam, bam, bam. Everybody was moving, everybody was doing something at all times,” Davis said. “That’s something that I really wanted to try and establish here. We’re trying to move through practice and use it sort of as a conditioning thing.”
Countryside will have to replace 32 seniors who graduated from last year’s team. Especially hard hit was the offensive side of the ball, where three big-time playmakers — quarterback Jimbo Chmelik, running back Alton Taylorand receiver Todd Shorter — have all departed.
“There are still some unknowns that we won’t know about even until we start playing,” Davis said. “We’re trying to piece everything together. We don’t have a whole lot of depth at some positions; some guys are going to have to play a lot of football. That’s just the nature of the beast.”
Davis was pleased with the Cougars’ work ethic throughout the summer and felt his team was in good physical shape heading into his maiden voyage on the sidelines.
“We do have a good core group of guys that played a lot of football last year,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, there’s a lot of inexperience too, guys that didn’t play a whole lot, that are going to be thrown in the fire. We’re going to have to have them perform too, but the early returns have been encouraging.”
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