This is the third in a series of camp reports on local teams over the opening week of the prep football season.
ALMOND – Reegan Anderson and Jesse Hunkins were two of the most productive members of the Almond-Bancroft football team during an historic season in 2014.
Coach Andrew Bradley would have done a double-take if someone had told him when that then-freshmen duo would be key pieces in the deepest postseason run at the school.
Anderson was a scrawny kid penciled in at wide receiver or tight end in his first year of varsity football. Hunkins was hoping to earn a spot in the offensive line somewhere.
The tandem combined for 2,651 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns to help lead the Eagles to the Division 7 state semifinals a year ago.
“We had no clue Reegan was going to be that sort of player as a freshman, but he developed physically and worked hard and ended up being a very good player,” Bradley said. “Same thing with Jesse with his speed and strength he became a very good running back and nose guard.”
Every year it seems a player or two comes out of nowhere and forces his coach to take notice.
Iola-Scandinavia coach Scott Erickson has seen the scenario play out many times during his 23-year tenure at the helm of the Thunderbirds.
Reluctant to name names for the sake of team unity, Erickson admitted there are players who have caught his eye entering this season that might not have been on the depth chart a year ago.
“There are surprise kids where you’re like, ‘That kid’s got it, he’s got it figured out,’” Erickson said. “There are kids that come in and understand the game and understand how to play and have played a lot before and then you get kids that it takes a little bit to figure it out.
“It might be their sophomore year, might be their junior year, sometimes not until their senior until it’s like, ‘Oh,’ and it clicks. It’s just kinda how it works sometimes.”
Taylor Kim falls into that category for Almond-Bancroft.
Unable to stand out or break through the starting lineup his first three seasons with the Eagles, the senior offensive lineman has forced his coach to take notice.
As a result, Kim has earned the right to be part of an offensive line for the Eagles, which should rate as one of the best small school units in the area, to close out his prep football career.
“Taylor Kim has stepped up here the first couple days of practice, he’s done a nice job filling in the one offensive line spot we need,” Bradley said. “With graduation you’re always waiting the following year for kids to step up.”
There are a number of theories regarding why it happens for some players sooner than others.
Maybe a player simply gets sick of sitting on the bench. His desire to earn some playing means doing whatever it takes to reach that goal.
Then again, there may be a more simplistic reason for the sudden transformation in a player.
“It’s a maturity process every year,” Erickson said. “What did he do in the offseason? He got bigger and stronger and he can run now. Sometimes that’s what it is more than anything.
“You just might have a kid who has not developed physically, and then the confidence goes up too and they know they have a chance to be a pretty decent player.”
—Scott A. Williams can be reached at 715-345-2282, or on email at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter as @SPJScottWill
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