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Prep football: Poca's summer numbers are up

POCA, W.Va. -- Summer is a good time for high school football coaches to break in new players and fill gaps on both sides of the ball.

Of course the players have to be there.

"The biggest thing for us is getting the numbers," Poca High Coach Bob Lemley said. "We've had about 30, which is not too bad for us."

Summer vacations always pull a few players away. Sometimes players who are expected to be there are simply nowhere to be found, such as junior running back Levi Clendenin and senior quarterback Jake Payne.

"I have not seen (Clendenin) yet," Lemley said.

The three-week summer practice period ends Saturday.

"Right now we are working Justin Stewart in at quarterback," Lemley said. "He played as a freshman then did not play last year."

He suspects an injury Payne suffered during baseball season may be keeping him sidelined this summer. Payne has started under center for the last two years and last season he completed 72-of-146 passes for 797 yards and ran for another 659 yards for the 2-8 Dots.

He is also an example of the major problem Lemley sees with the summer practice period.

"The one big thing I have a problem with is you have kids that play say football, baseball, and basketball," he said. "If you have a kid that plays all three it wears him down."

The recent heat wave has not helped any.

"We've been going in the morning," Lemley said. "It's been getting a little warm around 10."

In spite of some no-shows Poca has a mix of experienced players returning and newcomers. A mix that has led Lemley, who will be entering his 24th season as the Dots' coach this fall, to make some changes this summer.

"This year we haven't done as many 7-on-7s as in the past," he said. "We've done more teaching and that is helping us a lot with the newcomers."

One of those is a transfer from Mississippi by the name of Jeffy Grantham, who will help strengthen a line that already has everyone returning.

Those include Austin Bird, Nick Thaxton, Dante Barnett, Jake Lett, and Nick Jividen. Veteran coach Bob Gobel will be working with that unit again this year for Lemley.

Also returning are running back T.T. Loudin and split end Tyler Gibson.

"We expect Loudin to have a good year," Lemley said.

As a junior last season the 5-foot-9, 178-pounder ran for 1,080 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Lemley is satisfied with how the team has developed this summer.

"We had a 7-on-7 at Chapmanville last week and probably did a little better than we thought we would," he said. "It's very encouraging."

The Dots open at Nitro on August 30.



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