Jr. Billies show potential, coach says

Just over two weeks into fall practice, Monticello Junior High football coach Kenny Pace likes the effort he's seen from his ninth-grade squad so far.

"We're not going breakneck speed with them as far as putting in a lot of plays, but they're doing good," Pace said. "The main reason they're doing good, I think, is because they have great attitudes and they work hard. They're going to make mistakes, but they're doing it full speed."

The Jr. Billies finished 2-3-2 in 2008, a bit of a downturn for a program that had gone 16-1 with a pair of conference championships the previous two seasons. Pace said the current group has the athletic ability to return MJHS to those lofty heights.

"They've got everything going for them - strength, size, speed," he said. "If they can just put it all together, the sky is the limit for them."

This year's team features a bevy of linemen, as well as some speedy backs and versatile athletes, Pace noted.

"We've got 10 linemen that could start," he said. "They're just trying to battle it out. We've got about six running backs slash quarterbacks who could start in four positions."

Of course, athletic ability doesn't mean much if the players aren't willing to work, but Pace said that's not a problem with this bunch.

"We have high expectations for this group," he said, "because they've proven they have the maturity, the work ethic and the attitudes to get the job done.

"And it's nothing I've done or (any of the assistant coaches) have done. Those kids want it. We've had athletic groups before, but these kids have a different mindset. They're a lot of fun."

Pace said his eighth-grade team is coming along but still getting adjusted to the rigors of junior high football.

"They need to mature, and that will help them on the football field," he said. "They're just kind of in a new atmosphere, because eighth grade is a lot different than seventh-grade football."

The Jr. Billies will be on display Friday, August 21, during Monticello's annual Blue-White games at Hyatt Field. The Jr. high team will take the field at 6 p.m., with the Sr. high to follow.

Both MJHS teams are scheduled to scrimmage August 27 at Fordyce, beginning with the eighth-grade game at 5:30 p.m. The ninth-grade Billies will open their season a week later at Warren, kicking off at 7 p.m.

The first regular season game for the eighth-grade Billies is set for 5:30 p.m. September 10 when MJHS hosts Sheridan.

<p>Zach Berryman, left, looks to turn upfield during Thursday's practice. (Advance Monticellonian/DANNY SCOTT)</p>

<p>Beau Rush, left, pitches the football as Monticello Junior High coach Kenny Pace provides the defensive pressure Thursday, August 13, at MJHS. Pace said this year's squad features a strong work ethic to go with its impressive athletic ability. (Advance Monticellonian/DANNY SCOTT)</p>

<p>MJHS coach Kenny Pace speaks to his team following practice Thursday.</p>


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