Joint practice: Dragons, Knights continue to prep for 2018 season

Eisenhower and Warren offensive and defensive linemen prepare to run a play during a combined practice session at Eisenhower High School, Thursday, July 26, 2018. Both teams took advantage of the opportunity to run plays against external competition and gain insight into potential problem areas before fall camp begins in August.

As summer turns to fall, the familiar sounds of coaches barking orders begin to fill the air.

“C’mon guys, run the play!”

“Line it up, let’s run it again.”

“Alright, there ya go. That’s the way to run it!”

Some of those familiar sayings were echoing across the Pasture of Pain at Eisenhower High School Thursday evening. But they weren’t all originating from the mouths of Knights coaches.

Warren defensive end Dylan Burt wraps up Eisenhower running back Riley West during a joint practice session at Eisenhower High School, Thursday, July 26, 2018.

Warren coach Mark Morelli and his staff were also correcting alignments, pointing out coverages and heaping praise during a joint practice between the two Warren County programs.

“I’ve been asking (other coaches) for years to do this,” Eisenhower coach Jim Penley said. “I did it before with Corry and Fort LeBoeuf and it was awesome.”

When Penley extended an invitation to the Dragons this year, Morelli and his staff jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s been very beneficial,” Morelli said. “We want to do it twice next year.”

While teams can get a sneak peak of their skill position players during summer 7-on-7 drills and competitions, even more can be gleaned about a team when it’s matched as a full squad.

Warren’s Mark Morelli (left) and Eisenhower’s Jim Penley share a laugh near the end of practice at Eisenhower High School, Thursday, July 26, 2018. Penley invited Morelli and the Dragons to the Pasture of Pain to give both teams a chance to run full squad plays against external competition as they prepare for fall camp.

“A quarterback can look good in 7-on-7, but how about when there’s chaos and a bunch of bodies flying at him,” Penley said.

Teams are able to gain an even better perspective when they’re matched up against another set of starters.

“You can’t really get that work against the twos and threes,” Penley said. “A two or three might make a bad read in coverage and the QB completes a pass and feels really good. Then you get in there against a one and they don’t make that mistake.”

The ability to get a practice session in against another team before fall camp starts also gives those teams a better idea of potential trouble areas as August approaches.

“It’s a truer tell going into camp,” Penley said.

Warren quarterback Jake Kupchella prepares to pitch the ball to running back Kyle Swick as Eisenhower’s Cael Black bears down on the play during a joint practice between the two teams at Eisenhower High School, Thursday, July 26, 2018. The schools agreed to the combined practice session as a way to get an early look at how their teams fared against external competition.

“The kids got their eyes opened,” Morelli added.

On the surface, the Knights and Dragons would seem unlikely bedfellows, but both teams realized the benefit far outweighed any potential animosity that existed between the two schools.

“It’s good for everybody,” Penley said. “It’s an awesome opportunity for two schools to get together and get better.”

“It’s easy to say let’s work together because the kids benefit,” Morelli said. “It’s a no-brainer.”


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