Cougars right where they need to be
Shawnee Mission Northwest football coach Aaron Barnett likes the numbers he has out for his first team.
Eighty-three sophomores through seniors and 45 freshmen have pledged themselves to Barnett's program in the Cougar coach's first year as Northwest's head coach.
But what has impressed Barnett more has been the improvement and coachability he has seen in the young Cougars since practice opened up two weeks ago.
"I thought we had a real good week of practice last week," Barnett said. "I think that's definitely the hardest week of the season because their first week you're all pumped up about starting and the third week you've got a game to look forward to, but that second week is just six hard practices. But I really thought we improved. I really thought we became more physical, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I think our fundamentals are getting better. Our wide receiver routes are becoming crisper and our running back steps are becoming more exact."
Barnett is reluctant to name names as far as individual leaders on the 2006 squad, preferring that his leaders lead by example on the field rather than in the headlines.
"The first type of leader is a leader who leads by example," Barnett said. "Our senior class is doing that by setting a tempo as high as they can do it. It's hard to just pinpoint a couple of leaders. We don't need any locker room lawyers. Overall, I think a lot of people are leading."
Barnett expects his leaders to push forward with physical play on both sides of the ball and is preparing this year's Cougars squad to be physical in every aspect of the game.
"Offensively, I want that to transfer to both running and throwing the ball -- we'll be physical either way," Barnett said.
Barnett also praised the effort of his players as well as their level of energy.
"I think they're really enthusiastic and pretty coachable for the most part," Barnett said. "I've been pleased with their attitude. Sometimes I'm not the easiest guy to play for."
For now, Barnett believes the most important thing for his team to do before next Friday's season-opener with Shawnee Mission North is to keep improving and not deviate from the progress the team has made in the first two weeks of the season.
"We're not ahead of where we want to be but we're not behind either," Barnett said. "From here on out we've got to continue to get better. If we stay the same we haven't got a chance to win. We've got to polish up the little things and start giving more reps to the older guys."
Barnett hasn't spent too much time this past two weeks worrying about the Cougars first opponent -- their arch-rivals from North. Instead he's focused his time on what his team can do to improve. Execution has become the priority, not the opposition.
"Offensively, to me, in the first game of the year it's more about what you do and not what the opponent does," Barnett said. "Because they're in the same boat."
The Cougars will kick off the season at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1 against the Indians in the inaugural game at the brand new North District Stadium on the campus of Shawnee Mission North High School.