The Casa Grande football team won a total of 18 games under three different head coaches in the eight seasons prior to 2015. Last year, under then first-year head coach Jake Barro, the Cougars won nine games, went undefeated in five sections games, and claimed the Division IV Section V Championship.
Now beginning their second spring practice under Barro’s direction, the Cougars expect to be even better in 2016.
“The second year the kids know what to expect, they have a good idea of how practice is structured, how the offseason goes, and the expectations,” Barro told Sports360AZ.com after a recent practice. “Now we’re asking them to step up the intensity (and) be a little sharper in everything we do.”
“They’ve done a great job with that this offseason,” he continued. “The seniors we have coming up are tremendous leaders and I really think we’re going to build on the success of last year and have another great year.”
The Cougars return 18 starters from a year ago, a large reason for the optimism surrounding the upcoming season.
Among the group of returnees are quarterback Brock Hall and receiver Trevor Russell. The pair of 2017 seniors each recently received an offer from Adams State University, the first of what it sure to be many offers to follow for both.
Hall, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 205 pounds, threw for more than 3,000 yards and 36 touchdowns a year ago, completing nearly 58 percent of his passes with only seven interceptions. He looked every bit the prototypical quarterback prospect during a practice earlier this week.
“It’s really exciting to get (on the field) with our brothers and starting to put work in (during) the offseason to get ready for (2016),” Hall said about the start of the Cougars’ spring practice.
Russell, at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, ended last season with 64 receptions, over 1,200 receiving yards, and 19 touchdowns. He and Hall combined to make up one of the most prolific quarterback and wide receiver duos in the state in 2015. They represent perhaps the Cougars’ greatest strength offensively, for sure, but not the only one.
The team’s depth is another.
“We have a lot of returning starters this year,” Russell answered, when asked to name the Cougars’ two biggest strengths so far. “Plus, (we have) a lot of upcoming freshmen and sophomores that (will) contribute to the team.”
Koby Charles is the leading returning tackler on the Cougars’ defense, which held opponents to 14 or fewer points in six of the team’s nine wins. The 2017 strong safety knows spring practice is where leadership develops and the spirit of competition originates.
“I really want to see the upperclassmen form themselves as leaders,” Charles said. “And I really want to establish some competition out here; really get that hunger to win and dominate on the field.”
After eight consecutive losing seasons, the Cougars have all the pieces in place to have their first consecutive winning seasons since 2005-06 and could end up with more hardware than they earned last year.