CONYERS - Salem football coach Chad Estes knew he had his work cut out for him this spring.
But with the talent he has coming back, the work he has cut out for him could be a lot of fun.
"I think it (spring practice) was a success. We had a lot of kids out there, we worked on fundamentals and we think that some of the pieces are starting to fall into place," Estes said. "In the eight days we were out there, we didn't find all the answers. We don't know how certain things are going to fall out, but we've got a start on what it might look like. There are still positions that are up for grabs. The competition is going to be greater than it has been the past few years, which is a good thing. It's good to have people competing for starting spots.
"We do have a lot of players coming back, but we don't have a lot of experience. We're looking at those individuals who want to step up and contribute in the upcoming season."
But with only half of the starters set to return next season, Estes knows it will be a tough mountain to climb if his team is to make it back to the top of the Region 8-AAAA standings.
"We've still got a lot of work to do. The one thing that can be said about Salem is that the bar has been set pretty high with three region championships in the past four years," he said. "We've got a lot of work to do this summer in preparation for the season. The guys are enthusiastic about the season and I feel that we have a lot of potential. We're looking for those kids who want to make that commitment and step up to the challenge."
Another topic of discussion during spring practice was how the team will feel about playing under the lights of its own stadium next season.
"Our team, our school and our community is excited about being able to play our home games at Salem High School," Estes said. "There is a lot of excitement already, and I know the excitement will continue to grow as we get closer to football season and we start to see the progress that's being made with all of the additions at Salem High School."
Estes said he feels the key to getting ready for the season lies in the leadership of his incoming seniors.
"We've got some great senior leadership in players like Sam Watts, Brandon Hill and Nick Dennis - just to name a few. Players like them are going to have to provide that leadership because they've been there and they've done it," Estes said. "They've exemplified that so far during spring practice. Those will be the guys that the younger players will look up to. They'll see how hard they are working and know that's the level they've got to get to. There are other players that this applies to, but those three (Watts, Hill and Dennis) just stick out in my mind right now. They're fine, young me. They're all going to be seniors, they're all returning starters and they'll be the foundation of our football team."
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.