Prep football: Pratt, Cougars growing up in the summer
Jon Carpenter said the biggest change within the Capital High School football program from 2012 might be a matter of smell.
"A guy asked me what the smell in the locker room was and I said it was sweat," Carpenter said Monday. "Now we have guys who are old enough to stink.
"Last year it smelled like gummy bears in there."
The Cougars (7-4 in 2012) return 21 of 22 starters in 2013 from a team that finished eighth in the final Class AAA playoff rankings a year ago. That team appeared out of sort and out of place in losing a first-round playoff game at home to Musselman, but many of Capital's starters were making their playoff debuts as freshmen and sophomores.
Carpenter said quarterback Tyrhee Pratt will enter his sophomore season as a bigger, faster and stronger version of the player who won the Kanawha Valley Rookie of the Year award in 2012.
"He's throwing the ball with more velocity than he was last year. That's the first thing we noticed right out of the box, is there's been a lot of improvement there," Carpenter said.
Pratt, at approximately 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, threw for 1,451 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman while completing 93-of-181 passes. He was intercepted six times.
A host of skill-position players return to the fold as well. Senior James Richmond ran for 1,004 yards and 12 touchdowns last year while junior Kashuan Haley ran for 777 yards and six scores. Haley, a second team All-State selection as a defensive utility player, missed the playoff loss against Musselman with an injured leg.
Pratt's older brother, senior Cliff Pratt, will also return to his starting spot while key defenders such as junior defensive back Jordan Kinney, linebackers Jonathan Pittman and Logan Priddy - a senior and a sophomore respectively - are back as well.
In fact, of the 59 players on the Capital roster at the end of 2012, 42 of them were either freshmen or sophomores. The only senior who started last year was All-State defensive back Davon Tyson, meaning the Cougars should return their offensive line in its entirety too.
"It's year four," Carpenter said, referring to the number of seasons at the helm of the Capital program.
"People are going to be expecting something from us. We've got the talent to give it to them."
Capital, which opened its doors as a ready-made powerhouse in 1989 as a consolidation of Charleston and Stonewall Jackson high schools, reached the Class AAA state championship game five times in its first eight seasons, winning three state titles.
It has not reached the title game since its loss to John Marshall at the Super Six in 1996.
The Cougars spent the first week of the ongoing out-of-season coaching period further developing their youth, Carpenter said.
"We had about 20 guys at the Ohio State camp last week so we worked with the younger guys more," he said. "That gave them some more time to learn the system while the older guys were out of town."
Tyrhee Pratt, a die-hard Buckeyes fan, was among the players in Columbus, Ohio, last week.
"It's been a pretty good year for him," Carpenter said of his quarterback, who also was named to the nationwide MaxPreps.com All-Freshman team after 2012.
The Cougars will play host to a small 7-on-7 passing event at 4 p.m. Thursday at University of Charleston Stadium that Carpenter said will also include teams from St. Albans and Riverside. While the passing competitions provide an opportunity for his team to gain rhythm with its quarterback, Carpenter said he tries not to put too much emphasis on interscholastic competition during the off-season.
"We go against ourselves a lot with it," Carpenter said of the 7-on-7 format. "We've got a lot of good athletes and can push each other pretty well."
Capital does not play the first week of the regular season. Instead, the Cougars will play host to Riverside in their opener on Sept. 6.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT