Erasing bad memories and finding a new quarterback were the main points of concern for Pine Forest during the recent spring football conditioning period.
Elijah Robinson, who will be a senior offensive lineman for the Trojans this fall, best put things into perspective. “We want to put all the bad seasons behind and keep moving forward,’’ he said. “We are growing as a team, and we want people to see that. We’ve got to start fresh and get right this year.’’
The Trojans got off to a strong start in 2016 but limped home with a 7-5 record that included a first-round state 4-A playoff loss to West Johnston.
Finding a quarterback will be a critical part of making any major improvement happen. Head coach Bill Sochovka is looking at two main candidates for the job, Lavonte Carter and D.J. Jones.
But there’s something else he’s got to develop that may be even harder, and that’s leadership. “We lost a good core of seniors that had good leadership qualities,’’ he said. But as the Trojans assembled for their first spring practice, Sochovka was glad to see everyone he was expecting to be out was on the field and ready to start five minutes ahead of time.
Aside from the quarterback position, the other major concern for the Trojans is the secondary, where graduation took everything, and Pine Forest will be starting from scratch.
Elsewhere, things are looking up. “We have a good core in the offensive, and defensive lines and even our skill positions were young,’’ Sochovka said.
There’s good news and bad news at running back, where the Trojans will be seeking some new faces. The good news is the Trojans should have some speed at the position, but the bad news is most of those players missed spring workouts because they were still involved in the state track competition.
“We slowed our offense down last year,’’ Sochovka said. “We want to be a faster tempo.’’
Sochovka said another focus of the Pine Forest spring would be getting the team in actual playing shape. “There’s nothing like actual football practice to get you in condition,’’ he said.
Sochovka said he prefers the option to have the full squad out for conditioning versus working with just 21 players a day for a number of reasons. He likes players who play multiple sports, so going with the later spring practice allows more of them to be able to take part.
“I think it gets everybody focused,’’ he said. “It puts a taste of football in their mouth, and for kids who worked hard in the weight room it shows it’s paying off.’’
Robinson said he hopes the Trojans become more of a family this season. “The more we come together as a team, the better the season is going to come out,’’ he said.
Photo: Elijah Robinson will be a senior offensive lineman for the Trojans this fall.