Raiders working to find the pace

Shawn Stinson|Daily Journal Richmond Senior quarterback Leon Zeigler makes a throw in the team’s 7-on-7 drill during Tuesday’s practice.

ROCKINGHAM — With temperatures expected to reach triple digits this week, the Richmond Senior football team is getting to work on prepping for the upcoming season.

Former backups are now stepping into starting roles, last year’s junior varsity and freshmen players are getting acclimated to the speed at the next level.

And what could be the biggest transition for everyone on the practice fields is getting used to the new coaching staff led by Mike Castellano. The former Middle Creek coach was hired on May 20 and missed the majority of the spring workouts, so these next seven weeks will be key to getting players up to speed on his system.

“It’s a work in progress. The guys are trying to buy in,” Castellano said. “I think the coaches are doing a good job of trying to install football, while we install tempo of the style of football we want to play. The guys are adjusting, right now their heads are swirling a little bit, but that’s to be expected…it’s Day 2. A lot of teams in the state did this stuff back in February and March and we’re going to do it in June. We have a lot to cover quick. All I can ask is they keep working.”

One of the things Castellano stressed at the conclusion of Tuesday morning’s practice was the idea of having players be the best they can be each day. Castellano said he wanted each player to strive each day to be better than the day before or at least give the effort each and every practice.

“We’re excited about the guys that are doing that,” Castellano said. “There are some still trying to feel it out. We talk about competition and competing all the time. What we ask is for them to compete against themselves. How good can they be? We don’t care about the guy next to you, how good can you physically be? If you compete to that level, that is all we can ask of you.”

Assistant coach Steve Burdeau added he believes the players are starting to understand the pace Castellano wants during practice. The speed is similar to a run-and-gun basketball offense, but on the gridiron in shoulder pads and a helmet.

“Our goal is to play fast in games, line up fast, get plays in fast and execute at a fast pace in all three phases,” Burdeau said. “So in practice we try to replicate that through drills to keep the speed of practice moving and to get as many reps as possible. This forces us as coaches to coach fast as well, there won’t be 5- to 10-minute sitdowns on the field. We’ll teach a concept quickly, perform it and then correct it.”

The idea of being hands-on is something Castellano embraces and wants his assistants to do as well. An observer might see a coach showing a receiver how to run a route or a coach demonstrating the proper way to defend a pass route.

“We are always teaching,” Castellano said. “You are always progressing, teaching, trying to do new things, that never stops as a coach or player. That’s the evolution of coaching, you are always trying to have more than you have and get better at it. Right now, it’s an early process.

“The guys go hard and the coaches keep coaching hard…that’s all I can ask.”

Reach managing editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.