After graduating top scorers from last season, quarterback Adam Van and running back Austin Ginn, Cedar Creek football coach Ben Haddox was nervous about getting costly injuries in the spring that would further hinder his Cougar football team.
"Everybody is scared of the injury bug this time of year," Haddox said. "But in the spring it was good. We had a good spring and stayed healthy."
This year, for the first time since taking over the program in 2010, Haddox combined spring practices for the Cedar Creek high school and junior high teams as the junior high team made a transformation of schemes to begin running the varsity playbook. It is a move that Haddox sees as a key to many top programs' success and one that can only benefit his squad.
"We are focused on improving our junior high program and making sure that everybody, coaches and players, are on the same page," Haddox said. "This year we brought the junior high in with us. We had 85 kids out there and it was great."
To help in the transition of the junior high team to the new offense, Haddox brought in one of the most experienced coaches he could to lead the young Cougars.
Former Jonesboro-Hodge High School head coach Shannon Brown will coach the junior high team at CCS this year.
"How often do you get the opportunity to bring in a coach with the experience and talent of someone like (Brown)," Haddox said. "We are looking forward to working together, and we think the new additions to our staff will be very beneficial to our program."
Despite all these key elements in place, Cedar Creek still had to find replacements for a large chunk of its points from last season.
At quarterback, the name on the jersey will stay the same, but with noticeably less experience.
Adam Van's younger brother, Mark, will take over at quarterback in 2012.
At running back, Shiloh Perry will step in, and both players showed in the spring and during recent summer 7-on-7 camps that they have enough speed and athleticism to compete this fall.
"When you lose a couple kids like that (Van and Ginn) you think it will be tough to replace them, and it is because they did so much for our team," Haddox said. "But with Mark you get a guy that is a good passer and is efficient in the offense. Perry does a lot of similar things out of the backfield that (Ginn) could do."
Cedar Creek refined its offense and defensive base schemes at the Pineville Air Attack competition last month and recently played team 7-on-7 games against Mangham and St. Frederick. The Cougars will host a lineman camp in two weeks followed by a camp for skill players the week after as they prepare for LHSAA fall practices to begin in August.