St. James starts fresh, finishes first week of fall camp
Published 12:00 am Friday, August 8, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
Things have been going just a tad slower at St. James as fall camp begun last Friday – in more ways than one.
Not that the Wildcats lack speed, of course. Coach Rick Gaille’s team is always among the most athletic in the state, and this year will likely be no different.
Nor is it only because the team loses All-State running back, 100-meter state track champion, and all-around speed demon Luther Ambrose. Though that, of course, plays a part.
But when St. James defeated John Curtis last season to break the Patriots stronghold on the district championship (10-2A in 2007) and advanced to the state championship game, it did so with a senior heavy club. 14 of the team’s 22 offensive and defensive starters were seniors – all gone entering 2008.
So while the Wildcats still boast speed on the field, Gaille and his staff have had to be more deliberate this week as they install their offensive and defensive system.
“It’s been a bit slower in terms of introducing these schemes to younger players,” said Gaille. “We’ve had to replace a number of starters. Even some of our seniors are first year starters. So we have to slow it down for our guys who haven’t been playing in the system.”
A slower tempo at practice hasn’t equaled ineffectiveness, though. Gaille says that he can see rapid improvement in his players, day in and day out. He praises their focus and determination, things he says are vital for the athletes as he and his staff determines who will assume the team’s vacated starting positions.
That’s a process that Gaille says is still very much ongoing. But when it is over, he has great expectations for those chosen few.
“It’s why the rest of the team practices, not just the starters,” Gaille says. “It’s so that when the opportunity comes, they’ll be ready to produce.”
The team’s now-fluid depth chart is the biggest difference senior running back Kenny Zenon sees between last year’s fall camp and this year’s.
“We don’t know who’s playing where, yet,” Zenon says. “We’re still sorting it out.”
Zenon, along with quarterback Marcus Dumas, center Jabari Ambrose, and tight end Mason King, are whom Gaille deemed his offensive core. All are returning starters who Gaille says he is leaning on to set the example for the team’s younger players.
It’s a role Zenon says he takes seriously.
“It’s a rebuilding process,” he said. “I just want to help my (younger) teammates, let them know what to do so we’re all doing the right things.”