Adjustment Period: Panthers begin lengthy bye by getting back to basics
When the Plano East football team sat down to watch film on Monday, it marked the first of 19 days until the Panthers will next enjoy a meaningful game.
After spending months of seeking out a 10th opponent to round out their schedule, the Panthers reached that fifth step of grief -- acceptance -- in knowing they would be tasked with soldiering toward the Oct. 12 District 10-5A opener against Allen with essentially three weeks away from action.
Monday was the first step in making the most out of that circumstance.
"It sucks not being able to play," said Jackson Garrey, senior linebacker. "When you get into such a grind of preparing for someone and then preparing for someone else, and then you get to the bye week and we have two of them. You just want to play Friday and it sucks, but it's a good chance to get everyone healed up and ready for that first district ballgame."
The Panthers are treating the first of their two open weeks as a chance at right the wrongs from the previous month, taking a back-to-basics approach.
"Our philosophy is to work on fundamentals," Garrey said. "We're working on getting better at being Plano East; not being better than someone else, but being better against Plano East. We feel like if we're at our best, then we can hang with anyone."
"It's a work week, not an open week," added Collin Shaw, senior receiver.
Some lightening of the workload was to be expected with the Panthers going through 90-minute workouts from Tuesday through Thursday before resuming the normal two-hour timeframe this week.
The workouts fluctuate between team and individual drills, with receivers honing their route tree and linemen polishing their technique.
As is the case with any extended period of time off, monitoring complacency is key and East has done what it can to keep the practices vibrant during drills.
"It's almost like we're preparing for a bowl game with the amount of time we have off," said Johnny Ringo, East head coach. "It's tough and we give them opportunities for competition during practice."
The linemen seemed to embrace that atmosphere wholeheartedly in the waning stages of Thursday's practice, tasked with a bevy of 1-on-1 drills pitting offense versus defense that included a pass-rushing exercise and a test of strength where two linemen locked horns in an attempt to out-muscle and overwhelm their counterpart.
Making the competition all the more intense was the circle of players cheering on their teammates and swarming fellow Panthers after a successful pancake or sack.
Giving the players a chance at improving their technique, coupled with retaining that competitive atmosphere, has the team turning a negative into a positive.
"I think we can use this to our advantage," Shaw said. "We get to touch up on things like technique, whereas for a normal week it's just game plan, game plan, game plan. With this, we get to improve on where we've been rusty during the non-district games."
One thing absent from this week's routine: the Eagles.
That's by design, with the Panthers looking to slowly implement Allen into its practice schedule this week before hitting a full stride the week of Oct. 12.
"We feel like if you game plan for one opponent too long, you run the risk of losing your edge a bit," Ringo said.
That edge has been firmly in East's corner thus far, with the team sitting at 4-0 for the first time since 2007. Wins over Garland (35-20), Garland Naaman Forest (60-38), Richardson Berkner (62-28) and Flower Mound Marcus (38-17) have encompassed that run, with the Panthers having outscored their opposition by a margin of 23 points per game.
The challenge comes in retaining that momentum against an unbeaten Allen squad.
For now though, the Panthers are simply working with the hand they've been dealt and adjusting to this unique circumstance.
"The last few days they've picked it up," Ringo said. "When you're undefeated and playing well you'd obviously rather be playing; it's just unfortunate that it didn't work out that way. It is what it is and we just have to work to get better, and pull them along as well as we can."
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