• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Sports

WCMS football team prepares for season play

DAKOTA HOBBS makes a tackle during Woodford County Middle School football practice July 25. (Photo by Bill Caine)

It may be mid-summer on the calendar, but the "boys of fall" are out in full force at the Woodford County Middle School football field. Pads are popping, helmets are knocking and hard work is being put in on a nightly basis. "I'm seeing an incredible amount of excitement on the field this year," said Coach Josh Smith. "Last year, the kids really worked hard but we showed up late to the party. This year, there is a buzz at practice. It's a great environment to be part of." One of the first things to catch your eye at middle school practice is the size difference in the players of different ages. According to Smith, size is irrelevant. "We tell the younger kids that heart matters," he said. "How big is your heart, how much effort can you give to yourself and the team. You lace up your shoes every day at practice just like the bigger kids do. Football is the most applicable sport for the game of life. If you can take the values you learn from this game and the football family that you have made out here, then it will serve you well in life. That is the environment we are creating." Looking ahead into the first week of the season, the schedule is a tough one. "It's by design," said Smith. "We wanted to play the toughest opponents we could and the team has had a good group of leaders step up. Bryce Patterson is stepping up big time for us and Tyler Morris, who's a really talented running back for us. We have a young man named Sawyer Ford and I had never seen him on the football field before. He came out here and is stepping in at seventh grade quarterback and kicking field goals. It's an exciting time for this team." Because of the recent heat wave that came through Kentucky, Smith spoke to the families of the players and they decided to go a little longer into practices because of the frequent water breaks cutting into actual field time. "Everyone here knows that safety is the number-one priority," said Smith. "This is already a tough game to play, when you add that excessive heat, we have to take every precaution to protect these young men. The families agreed and we moved practice back a bit to accommodate the extra breaks and still get that maximum learning on the field. We start with "chalk talk" in the classroom and then try to bring the kids out in the cooler time of the night to keep them as cool as possible." During one hour of practice, there was one player who consistently made a play - Dakota Hobbs. "He's a really coachable kid and has tremendous speed and size for a seventh grader," said Smith. "He understands the game really well, comes from a great home, and he continues to shine on the field. He will be a tough lineman for anyone to stop. I know he is a nightmare for our scout offense." Hobbs enjoys the game and his favorite part will not surprise the people who know him best. "I like the hitting part of the game the most," he said. At first sight, it's hard to imagine Hobbs is about to start seventh grade. He is a man-child on the field and genetics may have something to do with it. "My dad is six foot, eight inches tall," said Hobbs. Tyler Morris is a speedy running back who also plays an important role as leader on the defensive side. "It's a brotherhood out here," said Morris. "If I do not step up as a leader, then I'm not serving my family well. I love this game and I want the younger kids to love the game as well. Our goal is to be the best in the state and we refuse to accept anything else." Morris carries himself well and was very articulate about what he wants. Sawyer Ford is the biggest surprise in camp. "About a year ago, I found out I could really kick the ball," said Ford. Ford has already made a 42-yard field goal in practice and looks to improve on his range. Until a year ago, Ford had not played the game. Now he has also stepped in as the seventh-grade quarterback. "He has a great skillset that he is now just realizing he has," said Smith.

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