It may have just been a scrimmage, but you couldn’t tell that if you were to take a look at the stands. The bleachers were as close to capacity as they could be with social distancing rules, as hometown fans cheered on their Bearcats who were finally getting to hit another team.
The scrimmage serves as a wake up call to get players used to playing at game speed after a long off-season, and Cody was the perfect opponent to accomplish that, according to Douglas Head Coach Jay Rhoades.
“Even though we have some older kids we are a little bit inexperienced,” Rhoades said. “We got some of that game speed against a team like Cody who is very well coached no matter what kind of team they have. They always play hard and fast and they kind of brought it to us.
“I think it was good for our kids and I felt like we got better as the scrimmage went on. Each drive showed improvement.”
The exhibition was also a opportunity to take some chances and run new plays or put players in positions they may not have much experience in without worrying too much about negative outcomes. Mistakes were to be expected as the team got used to playing with each other.
One example of this was a drive late in the scrimmage led by quarterback Koby Case. The Bearcats were moving the ball efficiently with a balanced attack of run and pass marching their way to the redzone before Case threw an interception in the endzone.
“That wasn’t a bad throw it was just a bad read,” Rhoades said. “The QB and receivers have to get on the same page as far as reads and routes go. That’s what these live game situations are for.
“Now we get to go back, bring those guys in and teach them on film. We expect them to make some of those mistakes, now they have to learn from them and work to get better.”
The scrimmage was the most important for the offensive line to build some chemistry, coming into a year with a brand new group of players in the starting role. If the Bearcats are going to run the balanced offense Rhoades has implemented over the past 15 years then it starts with the run game. No run game can be successful without a solid line opening holes for the carrier.
“Coach Seeds always does a good job with them. They’re a little inexperienced but I like what they’re doing right now,” Rhoades said.
Then, of course, is the most important position on the field.
Case, a junior, and senior Reece Rogge are expected to share time at the position, and have big shoes to fill after 3A first team all-state QB A.J. Yeaman graduated in the summer.
Rhoades said that both QBs, who also contribute on defense, will have playing time as they bring something different to the offense.
“We are going to use both of them a little bit and may even use all three of our guys (sophomore Jackson Hughes is the team’s third-string QB). All of them bring something to the table. We’re looking at all of our options. The first three games don’t really mean anything for conference standings so it will be nice to mix things up in those games and figure out how we’re going to use them.”
The team will officially begin its season against rival Torrington, who swapped spots with Buffalo moving down to the 2A conference.
The game is still a rivalry game in Rhoades’ eyes, though, and he is happy they were able to keep them on the schedule. Many of the Douglas players are familiar with the guys in Torrington and they look forward to playing them every year.
“These kids have been playing against Torrington their whole football careers,” Rhoades said. “Even though it’s early there’s still going to be that rivalry atmosphere.
“The kids have to be ready to go because whenever these kids get together it’s going to be intense. It’s a pride game, and it’s going to be a battle.”
Douglas will travel to Torrington where kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday.