The Thomas S. Wootton High School football team had its fair share of miscues in Thursday’s 7-on-7 summer passing league competition, as is to be expected from a young group more than six months removed from its last live action, playing under a new coaching staff.
But as the games progressed, so did the Patriots, who showed flashes of what they hope to become by summer’s end in losses to Seneca Valley and Quince Orchard.
“The execution was better,” said Wootton coach Eddie Tolliver, who was hired in March. “As a coach you always want it to be perfect, but it’s never perfect. You strive for perfection. I guess [today was] the good and the bad together.”
Jaron Woodyard, a transfer from Watkins Mill, was one of Wootton’s top performers; against Quince Orchard, the speedy junior had an interception and caught a long touchdown pass from senior quarterback Sam Ellis.
“We got a lot of young guys,” said Woodyard, an All-Gazette first team indoor track and field athlete. “We just got to teach them. Teach them what they’re supposed to be doing. Leadership and communication, that’s all.”
The coaching change hasn’t been easy on Wootton’s players.
“It’s crazy. Hearing different things left and right. But you just have to keep your head right, keep looking forward to the goal: winning,” junior linebacker Patrick Bernardo said. “... At points it can be a distraction but you got to get rid of that. You just got to work out, play, have fun, get good.”
Spinner, now coaching Avalon, a private Gaithersburg school, attended Thursday’s passing league games at Seneca Valley High School. As of Wednesday, no Wootton players had transferred to Avalon, Tolliver said.
Tolliver said the Patriots are focused on improving fitness and communication, particularly on defense. That showed against Seneca Valley and Quince Orchard, with Bernardo playing middle linebacker and directing the defense.
“We just need to build the chemistry of our team. We had some good flashes on defense and on offense,” said Bernardo, who had a pass deflection against Seneca Valley. “We lost, but it got better.”
Wootton went 5-5 last season, losing four of its final six games.
“We’re doing the whole build from the bottom up, as far as making sure everybody understands what’s going on and then getting everybody on the same page,” Tolliver said. “... What you did in the past is in the past and you’re going to earn your spots ... There are no incumbents.”