Woodland football’s numbers increase

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BY KEN MORSE
CITIZEN’S NEWS
The Woodland football team is back on the gridiron preparing for the start of the 2022 season. It may be a slow start for the Hawks settling into the three-day OTA period of the preseason, but the boys in black and gold are in all hands on deck mode.
“We have a strong group of 22 freshmen,” said Woodland coach Joe Lato. “That boosts our numbers up to around 60, a significant increase from the 35 players we had last season.”
The Jr. Hawks went undefeated last season. The Woodland feeder program will be a welcome addition to a team that battled to a 5-5 mark in the first season under Lato.
“We have good numbers this year,” added Lato. “That is encouraging. It was tough last year when we had some kids out for a while. So yes, this is a huge improvement and the kids are excited for the season.
“They are good kids. They work hard, they listen and want to get better. These three extra days, I’m not sure they amount to much since we are very limited in what we can do, but I think any day out there helps the kids’ mindset.”
Lato and his staff have the group for 90 minutes each day to go over basic stuff like where to be on the practice field during whatever activity is going on. Most of the organizational things were taken care of before school got out for the summer.
Lato commented: “I think if we really want to improve the safety of the sport maybe we should be using the extra days to teach blocking and tackling skills.”
According to Lato, this can be done without the physical strain of player against player. This can be done using bags or blocking sleds. This can work two-fold in teaching the proper technique and to stay away from injury by doing it correctly.
“If you really want to improve the safety of the game, I think that is where you need to start,” said Lato. “We spent the extra days teaching the kids about transitioning on where to be on the practice field.
“Our freshman went through the Jr. Hawks program so they know what is expected, so now basically we are trying to master our routines. (It’s) kind of like a rehearsal to when we go to contact practices.”
Lato further went on to explain that there really is no cross-training when it comes to blocking and tackling. They are two separate skills. It’s not like some other sports where catching and passing have similar movements. That is why he feels it is so important to teach those skills.
“Does it really make or break a team having these extra three days?” asked Lato. “Probably not, but we will take advantage of whatever the CIAC gives us. But there is no replicating the skills needed for blocking and tackling and if we are serious about the safety of the game, we might as well start right there.
“We may have way too many restrictions during the OTAs to be beneficial to anyone, but if this is what is being offered to us, then we need to take full advantage of it. So we used those days to help with the transition of where these kids need to be on the practice field so we can hit the ground running.”