FREEPORT — Coming off its best season-opening performance in some time, Freeport is already in a bind.
Set to face Holmes County on the road in Bonifay at 7 p.m. Friday, the Bulldogs have managed just one full outdoor practice since shocking Maclay 42-36 in overtime this past week, coach Shaun Arntz said.
“Like everybody else, we’ve been dealing with this dang weather,” he said. “Every day like clockwork, at 3 p.m. we get lightning in the area. And if it’s within 10 miles, we gotta go inside.”
And Freeport (1-0) can’t practice in the gym on the days it's forced inside because the Bulldogs’ volleyball team takes precedence. That leaves the cafeteria as the only space available for Arntz and Co. to get any semblance of work outside the film room.
Still, Freeport isn’t discouraged. Quite the opposite in fact, Arntz said.
“One thing winning’ll do, man, is it’ll get everybody’s eyes open,” he said. “You’re gonna know immediately, ‘Are they humbled by it,’ or, ‘Has it gotten to their heads?’
“I think it’s really humbled our guys. Their attitudes have been great. They’ve handled it well. They’re getting confidence in themselves and confidence in what we do.”
Counting a Kickoff Classic outing against Bay where the Bulldogs played their full starting lineup for the entirety of the game, Freeport has won back-to-back close games.
Against Maclay, senior running back Brandon Siples racked up 183 yards and two touchdowns, and Bryan DeAnda returned an interception 67 yards for a touchdown, the Bulldog defense holding strong in overtime to allow quarterback Keane Neal to cash in on a game-winning quarterback sneak.
Despite the success, there’s still much to correct, Arntz said, though that’s expected this early in the year.
“The negatives are we’re giving up a few too many big plays and we’re having some very inopportune turnovers,” he said. “We fumbled going into the end zone twice last week.”
Arntz doesn’t want to see any of those mistakes happen Friday against Holmes County (1-0), a team Freeport hasn’t beaten 2015.
“The scores don’t even tell the whole story,” Arntz said. “It’s been dominating wins by them. They’ve outplayed us in every phase.
“They’re one team that we might be as fast as on our schedule, but Bonifay and Holmes County, they are traditionally extremely tough and physical kids. They’ve got the brains and the brawns, man.”
Arntz heaped particular praise on Blue Devils head coach Jeff Lee and O-line coach Jimmy Ray Stephens, the former Walton coach back in the area after spending the spring coaching offensive linemen for the Alliance of American Football League’s Orlando Apollos franchise.
However, given a pair of close victories to start the year and a plenitude of knowledge about Holmes County, Arntz said he believes this could be the year Freeport gets off the schneid.
“We know that they’re gonna hit us from the time that the toe meets leather until the last whistle blows,” he said. “We’re up for that challenge. We’re not gonna be taken by surprise.”