PICKERING – After an 0-10 2017, Pickering is changing things up to give it a chance to add some 'W's' in the win column.
The Red Devils are installing a new defense along with trying to give the players a breather throughout the game by playing them just one way.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how our young kids are going to come around and even our older kids, even though I have a good amount of seniors, their maturity, as far as football goes, they're still young other than Johnathon Gregory," head coach Eddie Thomas said. "This will mostly be their second season. I'm anxious to see us compete. We have a new offensive coordinator. I moved over to the defensive side of the ball, which I worked on my whole career."
Last season was Thomas' first year as head coach of the football team after taking over the program from Johnny Cryer.
"I learned a little bit about patience and humility," Thomas said. "I think I got to know each kid a little bit better and different things about how kids are going to be. I know we need to be a little more consistent. I think the makeup of the kids that we have will fit our schemes to our kids.
"I've been a head coach before for basketball, but the dynamics are completely different. There is a lot more that goes into football than basketball because you're dealing with so many kids."
One of the changes that Thomas made was promoting his son, George Thomas IV, also known as Gett, to the offensive coordinator.
Gett introduced a more spread out look, allowing the athletes to get out into space and make people miss.
"Everybody I interviewed was on staff, and all the other coaches had something good to say about him," Thomas said. "He's a former player and a very bright kid. He had everything I was looking for."
After a down year, the players are ready for a new look Pickering squad.
"I'm really excited about the switch up to our offense," defensive end Glenn Anderson said. "I like the way we're manipulating the offense and how we're coming together as a team, way more than we did last year. I'm really excited for our defense to go out, lay a big hit on somebody and get the ball back. All around, I'm excited.
"Last year was something difficult and different. Losing all the seniors that we did, it was a like a whole new team. I wasn't used to being the one to step, but now that I have that leadership and that experience, I feel like we're good."
The offense returns six players, including quarterback Braden LeBato, who returns for his sophomore year. LeBato started every game behind center as a freshman.
"A lot of it is going to be based off him and his reads," Thomas said. "I like where he is at right now. We're definitely going to have to get better, but he's making a lot of good decisions. He's delivering the ball well. We're going to move him out to into the gun, which we think will help him with his vision. Gett has been helping him with his reads."
Senior Jon Gregory played a lot on both sides of the ball last year, and Thomas is trying to figure out the best way to use him and keep him fresh for late in the contest.
"He'll be more of a defensive end/linebacker," Thomas said. "He will play more at what we call the H-back. We're spreading it out a little bit more. He's looked decent at the spread position, but he's looked real good at the defensive end position. It all depends who wins on offense, because we are trying to have them play just one side of the football. I think that hurt us last year in the second half."
The offensive line returns four starters, including second-team all-district pick Jaylin Moore, with the new addition being freshman Kaden Obanion.
"It's wonderful because it shows what we learned last year and that we can take it into the next year," Moore said. "Not only do we have that talent, but we have that experience as well. We know what everybody is capable of on the field. We should have a very solid season.
"I really think we're going to surprise people. Everybody has been doubting us ever since last year. We are going to keep that in the past."
Thomas and his staff took things away last season that they believe can lead to more success in 2018.
"I felt like for nine weeks, our guys came out and competed," Thomas said. "I felt like they competed all along and could have given up at any point on the road. We talked about playing the whole game as an iron man, and I think out of that, we realized that needed to split it up a bit more. If we have any players going both sides, we need to give them more rest than what we did. If we're going to do that, we need a couple of players that can go."
Pickering lines up against Lake Charles College Prep at 7 p.m. on August 30 in Lake Charles.