KNOXVILLE – Even though the calendar still shows it is summer, football season is not that far away. The Grainger High School Grizzlies are gearing up for the season.
The TSSAA-mandated dead period ended last week and that allowed high school coaches and their teams to begin preparation for the season after a two-week layoff. The Grizzlies hit the field Monday, July 12 for their first practice.
At the end of the week, new head coach Mike Manis and seniors Landon Patterson and Sam Andrews took part in the annual East Tennessee media day in Knoxville where teams from throughout the area meet print, radio and television representatives to discuss the upcoming season.
Manis is taking over a program which made the playoffs in four of the last five seasons but one that also lost key players on both offense and defense to graduation. Despite that, the new Grizzly boss says he likes what he has seen from his team so far.
“So far the best thing I’ve seen is the work ethic of our kids. We have really gotten after it in the month of June in the weight room, and we still continue to do that, but the buy-in with the weight room has been phenomenal. I think right before the dead period went into effect, everyone had a personal best in some kind of lift, which was great to see. Now we are on the learning curve of putting more in of what we did in the Spring as to what our offense and defense is going to look like this Fall,” Manis said.
Anytime a new coaching staff comes in, there is a learning curve as the players master the new playbook but Manis believes that has been a relatively smooth process so far.
“X and O right now, the zone scheme is the biggest thing since that’s all new. All we have done this past week was run inside zone. We do some different things out of the backfield with it, but our rules up front have been the biggest thing for our guys. We are taking it slow on offense and tell them if there is a question, let’s stop, coach it up and then let’s keep going,” Manis said.
Landon Patterson will be an important part of the Grizzlies success in the 2021 season and he said he and his teammates are adjusting to all the new changes.
“Everything has changed out there, new routes, everything. It’s a matter of learning that and going forward. We have to get to where we have to be at the right time because timing is everything in what we are doing. In the running game, we have to hold off the defense long enough for us to get somewhere,” Patterson said.
The Grizzlies will play a number of scrimmages against South Greene, Pigeon Forge and Cherokee high schools over the next several weeks in preparation for the season-opener Friday, August 20 when they host the Panthers of Cumberland Gap to The Den.