PRESCOTT VALLEY - Bradshaw Mountain High interim football coach David Moran and his assistants grabbed the bull by the horns after lead mentor Jared Woodruff abruptly resigned in late May.
Moran, a standout quarterback and defensive back at Bradshaw in the mid-1990s, has returned to his old stomping grounds in hopes of continuing to infuse life back into the program.
Last fall, BMHS snapped a two-year state playoff drought and finished with a 7-4 record under Woodruff, who spent only one season with the team. Moran was Woodruff's defensive coordinator.
This summer, Bradshaw has averaged about 55 players for preseason drills, Moran said. Since the Fourth of July, that number has dropped slightly because of family vacations.
"The kids are improving, they're getting better," an upbeat Moran said from practice last Thursday. "The best thing about these kids is they're very alert, they're very aware of what we're trying to do. They're listening to everything. They're very coach-able. I like our attitude right now."
Since school let out in late May, the Bears have attended passing league tournaments, lifted weights, run, and done on-field conditioning.
"We're spending a lot of time in the weight room," Moran added. "We're lifting three or four times a week and doing a lot of 'speed and agilities' on the football field, 'change of direction.' We want our kids to move. We know our defense is taught to play with your wheels."
Moran's also stressing the importance of fundamentals and football skills a month and a half before the 2014 season begins Aug. 29 at Glendale Apollo.
"We've improved in everything so far," said 5-foot-8, 165-pound Bears senior running back/cornerback Colton Audsley. "Everyone's working hard. Everyone wants to get better. We like our coaching staff a lot better I think this year. We want to play for them. We're excited."
This past week at Bob Pavlich Field, the Bears conducted line drills in T-shirts and shorts without shoulder pads in stations. And they worked on defensive and offensive schemes, including a modified spread offense that Moran's installing as the new offensive coordinator.
Bradshaw senior fullback/linebacker Shane Sorrells (5-11, 225) said there's still plenty for the team to learn in practice, but it's making strides with its commitment and energy level.
Sorrells credited Moran for putting the squad through more conditioning and team events so that they spend more time with each other.
"Together, as a group, we need to become a unit," he said. "We had a lot of difficulty last year doing that. But this year we've been a real tight group family through all the 7-on-7s (passing camps) and everything that we've been through."
In the wake of Woodruff's departure, Moran said he's hired a stable of 11 assistant coaches.
Among them is his father, Steve, the former successful longtime Bears head coach from 1984-98. He will serve as Moran's defensive coordinator and offensive line coach in the capacity of a full-time volunteer assistant. Another is veteran Ron Fuson, a Bradshaw assistant under former BMHS head coach Chuck Apap in the late 2000s.
Moran and his assistant coaches have been getting the players used to the offensive and defensive schemes before they dive into team camp July 21-24 under the lights at Pavlich Field, and official practices, which kick off Aug. 4.
"We haven't had a break since school ended," David Moran said. "Our kids have put in a lot of time, a lot of energy. I look forward to working with these kids."