SPRINGFIELD – Any time Albany and Springfield meet in anything, it’s always intense.
On Thursday, that intensity boiled over as a fight between the Hornets and Bulldogs cut short the final 7-on-7 session of the summer for both teams at Springfield High.
“It’s typical of anything you do between Albany and Springfield, it’s going to have a little extra enthusiasm behind it,” said Springfield coach Ryan Serpas, who is an Albany graduate. “I think some tempers were lost today and hopefully we can use this as a teaching moment for our kids to understand at the end of the day it’s just a ball game and we’ve got to be able to control ourselves and represent our community and school in a better manner.”
“It’s disappointing that that kind of outcome took place,” said Albany coach Mike Janis, who also coached at Springfield. “It’s just a day where we had four teams trying to get better – getting some work in. I thought up until that point, the day had gone pretty well. An unfortunate event that unfortunately ruined a pretty good day.”
Before the skirmish, both teams managed to conduct a routine 7-on-7 session along with visiting Central Private and Ascension Christian.
Albany and Springfield paired off in the final 20-minute period, with the Bulldogs starting on offense before Albany forced a turnover on downs.
That enabled Hornets quarterback J.J. Doherty to hit Michael McCahill on a 45-yard touchdown pass.
“We were kind of building up the whole day,” Janis said of the Hornets’ offense. “We had an idea of what we really wanted to work on, and that’s what we came out and worked on. As the day got further along, I felt like we kind of grew in our understanding of those concepts and J.J. kind of settled in, and in that third game, we really started to show that we had improved really throughout the day. The game (against Springfield) started off really well for us.”
Albany then forced Springfield into another three-and-out, enabling Doherty to hit Rhett Wolfe on a 45-yard touchdown pass.
“A lot of breakdowns defensively in our coverage,” Serpas said. “That’s only something that’s going to come with more practice. We’ve gotten a lot of that throughout the summer, but I still think there’s a lot of work still to go there. Hopefully we can look at our faults and become better through it.”
Tyler Bates intercepted Springfield’s Bryan Babb, and Albany drove to the Springfield 25, where Doherty threw to the end zone where the Hornets picked up a personal foul call.
Both coaches wanted to take a timeout at that point in an effort to diffuse the situation, when the fight erupted with roughly five minutes remaining in the period.
In the opening session, Central Private scored twice on Albany before Doherty hit Wolfe on a 45-yard touchdown on the final play of the matchup.
“As we’ve gone along this summer, I think J.J.'s gotten a lot better throwing the deep ball,” Janis said. “I told the kids – they wanted to do that more – I said we can’t just come out and use Rhett to bail us out of trouble. He possesses that ability, but he’s also a two-way player, and he may not have the lungs to do that multiple times throughout a game. It’s nice to know that we have that big-play threat, but it’s not something that we’re going to build the offense around or rely on to solely be the offense.”
Meanwhile, Springfield surrendered a quick score with Ascension Christian in its opening pairing.
However, Babb connected with Trevon Washington on TDs of 40 and 45 yards, and R.J. Serpas hit Nilan Pinestraw on another touchdown pass for Springfield.
Washington also had a pair of interceptions against Central Private, while Babb threw a short TD pass to Pinestraw.
“His speed is great, and he’s a great leader as well,” Coach Serpas said of Washington. “He really has been carrying himself in a great manner and has been a good role model for our kids to kind of look up to. I think he’s got a great work ethic, and we’re hoping that he’s going to bring a lot of intensity and leadership to the program.”
Doherty hit Trey Yelverton on a 35-yard TD pass and McCahill on a 25-yard scoring strike against Ascension Christian before the Lions scored on a short TD pass.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Janis said of the Hornets’ defense. “I thought we tried to do a couple of things that are pretty new for us, and we’re just really trying to get better on – not something that we’ve spent a lot of time working on in 7-on-7, but something that we want to do this year, so we came out and really put an emphasis on that. There were some learning curves associated with it, especially in the first game, but we needed to see those things. There are certain route concepts and combinations that are going to cause every defense problems, and you’ve got to learn how to deal with those and how to adjust and get better, and you’re never going to do that on a whiteboard, so you’ve got to see it.”
Springfield opens fall camp Aug. 9 with an eye toward a Sept. 6 opener at Bogue Chitto (Miss).
“I think that us putting in this work this summer is definitely paying off for us, and we’re a step ahead of where we were at this point last year,” Serpas said. “Our kids are taking more ownership on their job responsibilities, and I think that it will show once we actually get to get on the field and put some pads on. We’re just hoping to continue to try to grow and get these kids to buy into what we’re trying to preach to them and just try to be competitive.”
Meanwhile, Albany starts camp Aug. 5 and opens the season at home against Independence Sept. 6, and Janis said he’s been pleased with the team's progress in switching to a spread offense.
“It’s something that’s brand new for us that we knew would take a lot of work, but I think this summer we’ve grown and realized we can be pretty good at this,” he said. “The kids are having a lot of fun and really understanding it. As we go along and they understand it more, they’re just going to get better at it.”