BY: COLIN STRANG
For the past decade, the Dexter community and the surrounding area has seen the Dreadnaught football team as one that cannot perform. From losing every game from 2014 through 2017, they were a football team that could not win, let alone compete.
Now, in 2018, the Dreads are 4-2 (through September) and have no plans to let up on the incredible new performance against any team. How does a team that endured a 42-game losing streak win four games (and counting?) with a one-year turnaround.
Let’s take an inside look into why Dreadstrong is now Dreadstronger.
The most well-known difference with the Dexter football team is the head coach. Head Coach Phil Jacobs is now coaching Dexter for the second consecutive year, and seems to be the coach that has turned Dexter football around. With a new, innovative coaching style, Jacobs is running the program similar to a higher-level collegiate team or even an NFL team.
Players were enthusiastic when discussing the changes.
Senior receiver Alex Mills points out in practice they are “broken up into defense and offense, opposed to last year” where the Dreads had people playing both sides of the ball because “we didn’t have enough people.”
Mills’ shocking comment on the divide between defense and offense is that he “hasn’t even seen what defense looks like during the whole year.” There is a strong emphasis on players being skilled at their particular position. This is made possible by the team’s over 40-man roster. With depth like this, the practices are no longer divided between offense and defense, but instead focused for each position group and side of the ball.
Many football teams practice on their football field and in the past, that had always been the standard for Dexter football. This year, practice is no longer on Al Ritt (the game day stadium field), instead the team uses a grass athletic field closer to the high school.
Senior linebacker Evan Chapell said the change was all about privilege and making Friday night feel that much more special. “We practice on the grass by the high school so it is more of a privilege to play on the field,” he said.
Perhaps one of the most important pieces of the puzzle for Dexter to turn the program around are the new players at skilled positions. Quarterback Colin Parachek is only a sophomore but is able to play at the varsity level as a star athlete. Parachek has been around the football program for many years, beginning as a ball boy in fourth grade. This has given him time to understand the differences between this year and previous years.
Parachek’s first instinct was to reference the team’s leadership. “This team has a lot of leaders,” he said. “I mean, we have 25 seniors this year, and although there are only three captains, all 25 of them—even most of the juniors—help each other up. Nobody is ever down on each other.”
The team is also supplemented with junior Antwan Ficklen at receiver and junior Jordan Watson at linebacker. Their talents are highlighted in the following pages.
A strategy commonly used by NFL and collegiate level football programs is to limit hard hitting and tackling while wearing football pads in as many situations as possible other than games. Coach Jacobs has implemented this into the football program reducing risk of practice-related injuries and reserving Friday game days for the massive hits.
The players just wear shoulder pads and helmets in practice, and simply “wrap each other up” to simulate tackling. This keeps players safe and helps the coaching staff focus on player intelligence and the plays themselves. Another tool being used that most spectators have been able to see for themselves is after-action play coaching. The coaches bring a 46” flat screen TV to every game, and connect an iPad that has Hudl Sideline on it.
Hudl Sideline is a technology that uses recorded gameplay from minutes ago. This technology allows players to watch plays from minutes prior. Therefore, players are able to see exactly what the coach is referencing when coaching them, and it benefits all offensive and defensive players watching the film.
With new players, new coaches, sideline TV’s with after-action playbacks, a winning mentality, an emphasis on gameday, and no tackling in practice, Dexter football is on its feet once again to win again and again. The Dexter Community is in full support of the team and the student section shows up to cheer them on. Dexter needs to win two of the next three games for a spot in the playoffs. Will all of these new strategies put them there?
“Every game we’ve played so far we’ve expected to win,” Jacobs said. “The next couple games, I think our players believe they should win and there’s a difference between believing you should and preparing to win, and that’s something we are trying to pound into these guys.”