Wildcats ‘a lot further along’ as team opens football practice

Warren County head football coach Brian Bush throws a pass as he works players through a drill on Monday during the first day of practice. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – There was no feeling-out process needed on Warren County’s first day of football practice on Monday. Brian Bush didn’t need to acclimate himself to the Wildcats’ personnel, and his players didn’t need an introductory phase with their head coach.

Though rain forced the Wildcats indoors for their second practice session on Monday afternoon, the team’s first official practice was an encouraging step in Bush’s second season with Warren County.

“We’re a lot further along than we were last year,” Bush said after practice. “Last year we were scrambling around figuring out positions and trying to figure out what we were gonna install, how fast we were gonna install things and whatnot. I know the weather’s not cooperating with us to allow us to enjoy those two-a-day-type feelings but I think today was a lot better than we were a year ago. Overall it was a great day.”

Warren County’s first practice drew about 65 total players to the field, according to Bush, a total that should be split about evenly between varsity and junior varsity players when the season officially kicks off.

Even the soggy weather wasn’t enough to dampen the high spirits that senior running back/linebacker Ronnie Dodson said ran rampant throughout the Wildcats on Monday.

Warren County's Ronnie Dodson refuels with water during a break from practice Monday at Warren County High School. Rich Cooley/Daily

“Everybody’s excited, honestly. Last year it was not like this,” said Dodson, who rushed for 1,539 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2017. “I’ll tell you straight up, like last year we were kind of dull and kind of not ready. But this year everybody’s up and ready to go. Yeah, some people, they weren’t there (for 7-on-7 competition) over the summer, so they’ll get used to it. But we’re beyond it excited.”

The success that Warren County had in Bush’s first season last fall certainly gives the program cause for optimism. The Wildcats went 7-5 in 2017 and made the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, falling to James Monroe in the Region 3B semifinals. Warren County also picked up its first playoff win since 2013 with a victory over cross-town rival Skyline in the regional quarterfinals.

Dodson said the Wildcats – who lost 20 seniors to graduation off last season’s squad, including all-region selections Andrew Johnson (offensive line), Stuart Ashley (kicker/punter), Michael Carter (defensive back), Josh Edwards (linebacker) and Jacob Good (wide receiver/punt returner) – are eager to produce more victories for their second-year head coach.

“We had to get out here and just show (Bush) that we’re ready for football, that we’re ready to succeed for him,” Dodson said of Monday’s first day. “We know he’s ready, so we’ve gotta show him we’re ready.”

That message was delivered as Bush stepped onto the practice field Monday morning.

“I walked out for the first practice at 7:55 (a.m.) and everybody was already out there whooping and hollering and doing a bunch of yelling, jumping up and down,” Bush said. “Last year they were sort of sitting around … and they were all separate. This year they were all lined up, ready to rock and roll and they were one unit. That was exciting to see.”

Bush said Monday morning’s defensive session was less about teaching schemes and more about figuring out “who was ready to go out there and play the game of football.” He added that the Wildcats were able to implement some of their base offense in the afternoon session, and though the rain chased them from the practice field, the team was “running around having fun with it.”

All of Warren County’s offensive and defensive schemes will remain largely unchanged, Bush said, but he took it upon himself to alter some of his execution from a coaching standpoint.

“Just how I execute things is what I needed to sort of sit back and evaluate, and that’s what I did this offseason,” Bush said. “We’re gonna try it out and see how it unfolds.”

Warren County opens the 2018 season with a Saturday road game at Handley on Aug. 25.