PICKERING – With a new head coach at the helm and a different look on the helmet, Pickering wants to show the community a new Red Devil team.
Pickering went 1-9 last season – picking up a win in the last game of the year – and 0-10 in 2017, but the Red Devils want to shake up the district in 2019.
New head coach Ryan Russo was an assistant coach at Leesville last season and walked into a team with players with plenty of game-time experience.
"A lot of the players that we are going to start this year have played a number of games, probably before they were ready," he said. "Even though it may not have went the way they wanted, experience is experience. Hopefully, we can build some confidence.
"The players have been really good because everything we have done is new. The play might be the same, but the terminology and what we expect out of them is different. The practice structure, from what I understand, is completely different than what they are used to. It's been a lot to grasp for them, but it's starting to slow down for them."
The staff and administration at Pickering have updated the logos on the helmets, designed new uniforms and updated signage around the locker room to breathe new life into the program.
"We've had a lot of positive feedback," Russo said. "It was more than I thought. I thought it may rub people the wrong way because they've had a logo for so long. I don't know if the kids think of it as rebranding or trying to forget the past or whatever, but I look at it as more trying to rekindle the years on Coach (Dell) Ashley is the original heyday. If we can do that, we'll be on the right track."
Returning for his junior season is quarterback Braden LeBato. LeBato missed a majority of last season with an injury but takes over behind center his third season.
"(The worst part) was sitting on the sidelines watching my boys have fun," he said. "I can't miss another season like that.
"My biggest stride is that I have gotten stronger and faster. I've grown as a quarterback."
LeBato will have athleticism all around him, including running back Greg Jones and receivers Richard Trotter, Evan Fernandez and Marlon Freeney.
"We will be using our speed and athleticism in space," Russo said. "We're going to formation people into looks that we like, and we are going to utilize some speed."
Linemen Howard Gaston, Bryce Mcmanus and Joshua Shackelford will be featured on both sides of the ball for the Red Devils as two-way players, but Russo is confident that they will hold up.
Along with the work on the field, Pickering wants fans packed in the stands and getting the community involved in different ways.
"We've been installing a ton and trying to make up for the lost time in the spring," Russo said. "The work ethic is the main thing I've been proud of. It was hard the first day because it was so hot, but they've met the challenge. We set the expectations high, and they are doing everything to meet them.
"Logan Morrison, our offensive coordinator, is great with social media. He's taken that and run with that. It's a way to keep people involved without actually being here. The key is when they get here, put a good product out on the field. People want to support something they have pride in."