Change is imminent for Little Axe’s football program this fall.
First, the program welcomes first-year head coach Ethan Feuerborn, who replaces Matt Lane. And the former Choctaw assistant coach brings a new offense — the flexbone — with him.
The team is also moving from Class 2A to 3A, meaning a new district slate to handle.
Little Axe returns half its starters from last year’s group, but there are key players on both sides to replace, including linebacker Caeden Guthary and three starting offensive linemen — Ethan Nusser, Weston Early and Johnathan Price. Little Axe also will field a new starting quarterback.
For all the challenges Feuerborn faces in Year 1, he’s happy to have his players available to work out this summer after a long waiting period to get acclimated with his team. And he’s been pleased with their results.
“So far, it’s going really well,” Feuerborn said. “I’m really happy with what we’re doing. I’m really excited to start practice and get kids in pads and get going. We didn’t have spring ‘ball and team camp to tide you over until August. So, we’re all kind of itching for it right now.”
Feuerborn was hired a month before the coronavirus pandemic started, forcing him to get to know his team over Zoom video calls and text messages.
Little Axe is now back on its practice field and playing catch up with its offseason, as is the rest of the state.
Installing a new offensive scheme presents a unique test this summer for the program. Feuerborn’s focus is to make the transition as easy on his players as he can.
“[We’re] just trying to simplify it as much as possible, and try and convey that to the kids,” Feuerborn said of installing the flexbone. “Get them to understand the method to the madness, why we’re doing it. Because it’s a true system of having if the defense does this, then we’re going to run that. If the defense is doing that, then we’re going to run this. It’s a true [offense] in theory that has an answer for everything.”
• Key question: Can Little Axe build off its experience?
Feuerborn’s program returns six starters on offense and five on defense. It’s a solid base for the first-year coach to work with following a difficult 2019 campaign for the program.
Putting together a complete game can be troublesome for inexperienced groups but Little Axe’s young 2019 team started to figure things out toward the end of last season.
Feuerborn hopes those lessons carry into 2020.
“Those kids now have been in those close games and they know what it’s like and they know what to expect of themselves,” Feuerborn said. “Being able to change that mentality of hoping that you win to knowing that you’re going to win, expecting that you’re going to win, has been really what we’re kind of focusing on.”
• Key returner: Micah Helie. The rising senior accounted for 271 receiving yards and three touchdown receptions last season but he will take on a new role this year.
Helie is expected to move from receiver to quarterback with the departure of Collin Gibson. And he will be tasked with operating Feuerborn’s flexbone offense, which should suit the senior well.
“He’s extremely quick, and I think that that’s going to really help us in this offense,” Feuerborn said. “I think he’s going to be able to make a read on and be able to just stick his foot in the ground, get north and south, be able to make guys miss and run a long way.
“He just has that explosiveness that is very rare for kids at this level to have.”
• Key game: Sept. 18 at Bethel. Little Axe ends its non-district schedule on the road with Class 2A’s Bethel. Little Axe held a fourth-quarter lead against Bethel in last year’s meeting before letting the win slip away late.
Avenging last season’s loss and heading into district play with a win could be a huge boost for the program.
“That Bethel game could do a lot for us whenever we get there,” Feuerborn said.