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Panthers ready to hit

By Staff | Aug 15, 2014

Tim Chapman/PCT RHS senior running back Eric Hooker breaks up field during offensive drills at the Panthers’ first practice of the season Wednesday. RHS coach Scott Grochow, a recent inductee to the North Dakota High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, delivers instructions.

After three days of non-contact workouts, the Rugby High School football team will don full pads this morning. The Panthers are coming off a 4-5 season, which ended in the first round of the playoffs to eventual Class A champion Hazen.

RHS is eager to advance deeper and finish the year with a winning record. Though practice opened Wednesday, the season will have a more official feeling as the crack of colliding pads fills the air at RHS today.

“It’s intense and probably the best practice of the year,” senior running back Eric Hooker said. “The adrenaline’s pumping, you get to hit and it’s exciting.”

About 35 players are out from grades nine through 12 and the crew impressed coach Scott Grochow with its attention to detail as the staff began installing a new offense Wednesday.

“It’s just to get all the terminology down and getting everything put it,” Grochow said of the first three days of practice.

He said new players gradually will be worked into contact with the experienced bunch as he wants freshmen to be relaxed when it comes to hitting. Finding a balance with the early adrenaline is key.

“You want to keep them hungry and ready to play on Fridays,” Grochow said. “We don’t want them to kill each other.”

The team enters the year with no major injuries despite senior quarterback Brad Heidlebaugh walking around in a protective boot much of the summer. Heidlebaugh suffered a stress fracture, but was leading the first team Wednesday and didn’t appear even a bit labored.

“The doctor said I can do what I want on it now,” Heidlebaugh said. “(The first practice) went really good. We’re putting in a new offense and I felt we were pretty sharp. Linemen were blocking where they should and backs were going to the right spot.”

Hooker said the new offense will give the Panthers a more balanced attack with option reads for Heidlebaugh.

“Brad can pull it down himself or hand it to me,” Hooker said. “He’s gonna have to read the defense and I have to hit the holes.”

RHS opens the season Aug. 29 at Larimore. For more on the Panthers and Class A Region 3 see next week’s edition of the Tribune.

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