By Eugenio Torrens
Derrick Alexander told his football team on Day 1 of Bishop McLaughlin’s 2011 season that his team was going to have moxie to usher in the new era under the first-year coach.
“Everything’s changed. We do everything with swagger now,” said Evan Barhonovich, a senior linebacker and wide receiver for the Hurricanes (4-6).
Alexander finished his first year at the helm with Bishop McLaughlin, but he is far from inexperienced when it comes to the gridiron. He was an All-American defensive end at Florida State University and a first-round pick in the 1995 NFL Draft for the Minnesota Vikings.
Now he is trying to bring what he has learned to build a foundation with the Hurricanes.
“I’ve tried to create a culture around here of we gotta work hard during the week and play hard during the games and we gotta speed practice up a little bit,” Alexander said. “What I’ve always learned, the faster you practice, the faster you play.”
In addition to speeding up the tempo at practice, Alexander has stressed the fundamentals: blocking and tackling, as well as working on hand- and footwork.
“A lot of times in high school, everybody likes to run into each other,” Alexander said. “You watch the pro and the college game, and these guys use their hands better than anybody else.”
Alexander’s players took notice quickly.
“Last year’s practice we’d all just be walking around, looking at the sky, doing our thing,” said junior Austin Meyers who plays offense and defense. He added that this year, kids come focused to practice. Barhonovich knew immediately when Alexander took over that it would be a good move.
“The first practice when we ran tons, I knew it was going to be a better year,” Barhonovich said. “Just coming out and making us run, going crazy right off the start was good for us. That’s what we needed.”
The Hurricanes started 0-5 against a stretch of teams that exposed fundamental flaws in the squad. But the rookie coach loaded the front end of his schedule with tough teams, and Bishop McLaughlin rebounded, reeling off four straight victories to reach the Sunshine State Athletic Conference playoffs.
The Hurricanes were knocked out in the first round of the postseason by Lecanto Seven Rivers Christian, 55-38 on Nov. 11.
While Bishop McLaughlin’s practices may be sped up, Alexander knows firsthand success and stability don’t come as quick.
“We’ll be around this thing popping, going quick,” Alexander said. “Everything will be done exactly kind of the way it would be done on a college level. But it takes time, it’s not going to happen in one year.”
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