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BUCKNER – Without a coaching a staff and faced with the prospect of no spring practice, a phone call turned lemons into lemonade for the Oldham County High School football program.
With head coach Lonnie Oldham’s contract not renewed by the OCHS administration just as spring football could start, athletic director Matt Watkins came through with with a phone call to Louisville Fire arena football coach Tommy Johnson and Johnson agreed to come with some of his staff and work with the OCHS players three days a week.
“I made a couple of calls and Coach Johnson was just awesome,” Watkins said. “He’s a guy who wants to be around kids and share his passion for football and was excited about coming out here.”
Johnson, quarterbacks coach Roy McMillen and defensive line coach Pat Padrone came to OCHS to work with 20-25 players who were not involved in other spring sports.
“It’s went really well,” Johnson said. “The young people were really receptive to us and you can tell they have done a great job of teaching these kids. They knew technique and wanted to learn.”
For the players, it was a chance to get back on the field and hopefully build on the momentum of last year’s run to the regional championship after the uncertainty of losing their coach.
“It’s good, it’s been a lot of fun,” OCHS senior quarterback Chad Dennis said. “We have got to work with people who do this for a living with professionals.”
The players also said it was a chance for the team to come together on the field, away from the other issues that have been swirling around the program the past couple of weeks.
“It was pretty important for us just to be out there together,” senior receiver Austin Middaugh said.
“We needed to get back together as a team. We need to stick together now and this will help us stay together as a team.”
With Watkins on hand as an observer, Johnson and the Fire staff got back to the basics with the Colonels working with them by position.
“Really what we wanted to get across to the kids was fundamentals and technique,” Johnson said. “They are in the process of getting a new coach so we really wanted to concentrate on the basics and that is something we do with our own guys at the Fire. No matter what the level or the level of athletic ability, if you have good technique and fundamentals you will be a better football player.”
For players like senior middle lineback Ichiro Chiba, who has drawn the interest of several Division I schools, it was also a chance to learn some more refined technique.
“A lot of it was basic, but a lot of it was ways to improve your footwork and how to react and some of it was new and we will be able to use next year,” Chiba said.
It was also a chance for the Fire, who play their home games in the spring at Freedom Hall, to get into the community.
“We do a lot of things in the city, but this is the first chance we have had to come out to Oldham County and maybe let some people find out about our program and arena football,” Johnson said. “Plus it was a chance for all of us to get out and teach some kids which is not something we get to do very often, but is something we all love and all started doing in this.”
The Colonels have a bit of time left to fit in some more practices before the preseason practice can start in the middle of July.
“I know I have learned a bunch of footwork stuff and it’s helping me,” Dennis said. “I think everybody who was out here picked up some good things from it.”
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