Elks are ready to play
Burleson football coach Gary McElroy is excited about seeing the 2017 Burleson’s football team on the field Friday night.
The Elks open the season at 7 p.m. Friday against Saginaw at Rough Rider Stadium.
The excitement stems in part from not only having 13 starters returning, but also a fresh attitude among the players.
In 2015, the Elks’ had plenty of veteran and senior leadership, then last season, there was a leadership void. The strong personalities were gone and no one seemed to step up and take that leadership role. The lack of leadership along with other factors led to a tough 3-7 season.
McElroy said that before the coaching staff could address the leadership situation, the players themselves did that in the off-season.
“This group saw what had happened last season and basically addressed the situation without the coaching staff having to step in or tell them about it,” McElroy said. “They, as players, saw what we are lacking and they decided that weren’t going to allow what happened last year to happen this year.”
A perfect example of the change in attitude was on display before Friday’s scrimmage at Azle.
Last season, McElroy had to have a coach sit in the locker room before games to help keep order. As the coaching staff was making final preparations for the scrimmage at Azle, the players were left to their own means in their locker room and showed great maturity, McElroy said.
“Friday, they were in the locker room for 30 or 40 minutes alone,” McElroy said. “When we walked into the locker room to get them, you could have heard a pin drop. They were all sitting in there listening to music or just zoned out. As a coaching staff, we know we don’t have to worry about these guys playing football or getting prepared to play a game.”
McElroy added, “They have confidence in themselves and believe in themselves. They practice hard and play hard.”
Last season, Burleson overcame a 14-7 deficit to down Saginaw, 45-21. The Elks would win just two games in the next nine contests.
Saginaw, which went 1-9 last season, returns four starters on offense and six on defense. Quarterback Xavier Mcafee threw for 1,076 yards and two touchdowns last season. He has a pair of big receivers in Zach Campbell (16 catches, 335 yards) and D.J. Perkins (15-220).
McElroy said the key to the Elks defensively is to be better tacklers than they were in the Azle scrimmage.
“I think athletically, we match up well with them,” McElroy said. “We are going to have to get some pressure on the quarterback. He is an athlete and can run. We just have to be smart about things.”
Defensively, the Rough Riders are led by lineman Cameron McEntire (55 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five sacks), linebacker Patrick Haynes (87 tackles, 9 TFL, 6 sacks) and defensive back Isaiah Sing (3 interceptions). Saginaw will give the Elks’ offense multiple formation looks.
“We just have to keep our wits about us on offense and stay in front of the chains,” McElroy said. “We can’t make simple mistakes and get behind the chains. Things like taking a procedure penalty, missing an assignment and taking a loss just can’t happen.”
If the Elks can clean up their tackling and make plays on offense, they could be off to a good start in 2017.