Sunday, August 30, 2009

Training camp report: Tamarac

Nick Knauer will shift around in the backfield this year, moving from running back to quarterback in the Bengals' spread offense. He's been working in the weight room, too, squatting over 455 pounds and bench pressing over 300. (Photos by Mike McMahon - The Record).

Discipline. Heart. Execution.

That's the motto in Brunswick this year, as the Bengals try to follow up on the 2008 campaign, which was the most successful one for Tamarac in quite some time.

The best explanation anyone had for Tamarac's great 2008 season was that the senior class had started playing football as youngsters in the Brunswick Bulldogs youth programs. Now, Tamarac head coach Erick Roadcap is getting a wave of players every year that have football game experience and the mental edge to push themselves in the weight room and on the practice field.

"The fundamentals are established in our youth program," he said. "Guy Changa, the former President of the Bulldogs, has taken a step back this year after 13 years, but he's still a board member and he helps me in any way I need help. The big thing down there is that they learn discipline and fundamentals. They learn that football is not just going deep in sandlot. They’re learning it’s a lot of running and a lot of hard work."

All of that hard work paid off last year in the best football game that I saw in 2008 - Tamarac at Fonda-Fultonville. The Bengals trailed by 31 points heading into the fourth quarter, but senior quarterback David Fox Fox threw four touchdowns and rushed for another and he also converted consecutive onside kicks as the Bengals clawed their way back into the game.

Fox's rushing touchdown brought the Bengals within two points, and on the ensuing two-point conversion, he rolled out of the pocket looking for Nick Knauer. The pass sailed just beyond Knauer's outstretched hands and Fonda ran out the clock en route to a 41-39 victory - a bittersweet finish for the Bengals.

"We take pride in our special teams and our defense and we run that spread offense," Roadcap said. "One of my coaching philosophies is: the best 11 have to be on the field at all times. We train and the kids run. It was like we played 15 quarters at Fonda. Those kids didn’t give up. That was conditioning. We weren’t necessarily better than Fonda, we were in better shape and we outworked them. I hate that game every time I think about it."

Knauer, however, had a feeling he would be in Fox's shoes this year, so he paid special attention to his quarterback last season.

"I remember all the plays from last year and I made a point to watch Dave because I knew I would have to follow in his shoes," Knauer said. "We know what it feels like to win and we want to keep following that."

Roadcap spent the offseason watching Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute football coach Joe King and University at Albany head man Bob Ford run practices and he's tried to imitate some of the military precision the college teams use into his own practices. Still, he's looking forward to his players being tougher and better conditioned that anyone they play, something that proved true in 2008.

"We're doing the same things. It's the same offense and the same defense. Kids have had it now for three years and they understand it now coming in. Last year took a week and a half to understand system, now, just a couple of days. They bought in to it."

Roadcap (right) addresses the team during a recent practice behind the high school.

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