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Essex making progress

Two weeks ago it appeared as if Jerome Antone would be waiting for next year to coach his first game at John Essex. But a couple of weeks of hitting the proverbial pavement and the literal phone lines have produced more than a dozen either new or returning players anxious to don the yellow and blue of John Essex High.

“They have responded real well,” Antone said of his players. “I’m really surprised at the way they responded. The camaraderie around here is real good.”
Antone has had his players in for weight training and conditioning over the last two weeks and was anxious to begin practice this week as he tries to piece together offensive and defensive units.
Monday’s session saw the Hornets present work in a lot of two-on-three blocking and tackling drills. Antone inherits a roster ransacked by attrition as the majority of the Hornets’ key contributors from a season ago either graduated, transferred to Demopolis or fell victim to ineligibility. Mixing what remains of that group with a host of new faces, the Essex roster is as new on the scene as Antone, who was hired officially less than a month ago.
And while there is no substitute for experience, Antone is confident in what his roster will be able to accomplish over the next few weeks as it readies for a fall Jamboree game at Georgiana.
“Repetition, repetition, repetition will take care of (inexperience),” Antone said.
Much of that repetition will come on the offensive side of the ball as Antone attempts to install a new scheme that will function primary out of the spread with only a handful of deviations.
“We are going to run somewhat of a multiple offense,” Antone said. “We will stay in the spread mainly, but will go to the some other things as we need to.”
In the midst of the offensive work, Antone has found his quarterback in newcomer Travis Tripp, who worked out with the Hornets and got the first team reps in the spring under then coach Lenoise Richey.
Tripp, who did not play for Essex a season ago, has displayed a number of intangibles in practice while also intermittently showing a strong, accurate arm with notable touch on his passes.
“He’s been a big leader for us,” Antone said. “He’s got to improve on his mechanics. But repetition will get him to where he needs to be.”
Antone’s confidence in the offensive personnel rests largely and Tripp and the remainder of the skill players.
“Our skill positions,” Antone said what he believes to be the Essex strength. “I feel as time progresses, we’ll get better on the offensive line and the defensive line.”
While the offensive look will change as needed for the Hornets, there will be little changing on the defensive side of the ball as Antone knows exactly what he will be bringing there.
“I’m a 4-3 guy,” Antone said. “I ran the 50 look over at Monroeville. I have two guys at the one technique and the three technique that I think will do a good job. And I have a pretty good linebacker.”
While Antone knows what his defensive look will be, he and his staff are still focused on trying establish techniques and coverages with their players.
“We’ve just get to make sure they know what they’re doing in Cover 2, Cover 3, man,” Antone said.
The Hornets will practice for the next two weeks before traveling to Georgiana for an Aug. 20 Jamboree game that will kick off at 7 p.m. Antone said his team’s emphasis in that game will be placed more on analysis and success.
“What we want to do is see where we need to improve,” Antone said. “It is not a matter of whether we need to win or lose. I need to see what we need to work on for the following week.”
The Hornets will open their regular season on the road against Saint Luke’s in Mobile.