Cavaliers putting work in under new coach
With a week to go before the regular season kicks off, Southern Lee and new Cavalier head coach Don Simon will get their last competitive tune-up of the preseason playing in the Harnett County Jamboree at Triton tonight.
While any new head coach means a lot of adjustments and new information, going from coaches to players and vice-versa, Simon is impressed how quickly his Cavaliers are picking up his expectations. He also says he feels at home with his new team, new school and new community after coming to Southern Lee from six years at Flanagan High School in Broward County, Fla. and more than a decade in all in South Florida.
"It's been great. Everybody's been really welcoming. It's made the transition really easy," Simon said while grabbing a very quick lunch between a coaches meeting and practice Wednesday afternoon. "The school, the town, our boosters, everyone's been great."
On the field, lots of extra work in the spring and summer, leading up to the official preseason workouts in August, have paid off.
"The guys have learned what we're teaching them very fast. I feel we're ahead of the curve, well ahead of where I thought we'd be," said Simon.
That goes for physical improvement, but equally so for the mental and attitude areas of being a successful team, he says. Simon is taking over a squad which went 6-6 and made the first round of the state playoffs in 2011, but with a major loss of seniors, went 2-9 last season.
"The learning curve has been impressive because of their willingness to learn," he said. "Coaches are not miracle workers. It's up to us to coach and push young men in the right direction.
A new coach brings his new offense and defense, although Simon and his staff adjust to the kids and their abilities, too.
"You try to fit what you do offensively and defensively to the kids you have," Simon said.
"We've been careful with the way we put new things, the way we roll out new things."
In South Florida, Simon built a new football program from scratch at Miami's Ronald Reagan High School, leading that program to winning seasons before going to Flanagan where he led that squad to its first winning record in 18 years.
The Xs and Os are a part of that. Perhaps a bigger, more trying, part of the job is shaping the intangibles of a team.
"We've been focusing on putting down a really good basis of what to expect," said Simon. "I think the guys have met those expectations pretty quickly."
"It's encouraging because that's what you want as a coach. You don't want to have to pull teeth. It makes the job a little easier with as receptive as they have been," he said.
The Cavaliers have gone through some two-a-day practices since the initial, state-mandated five-day no-full contact portion of preseason practice passed. Tough, fast-paced practices with contact have been valuable, Simon said, as well as the Cavs' first scrimmage on Monday night at Orange.
"The kids performed really well," he said. "It was a good opportunity for us to see the fruits of what we're working on."
Harnett County Jamboree
at Triton High School
Friday starting at 6 p.m.
Harnett Central vs. Southwest Onslow - 6 p.m.
Southern Lee vs. Overhills - 6 p.m.
Harnett Central vs. Southern Lee - 7 p.m.
Overhills vs. Southwest Onslow - 7 p.m.
Triton vs. Eastern Wayne - 8 p.m.
Western Harnett vs. Pine Forest - 8 p.m.
Triton vs. Pine Forest - 9 p.m.
Western Harnett vs. Eastern Wayne - 9 p.m.