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Raiders showing progression in fall practices

August 4, 2011

Oak Hill has been in fall practice a little over a week and head coach Benjie Merchant has already seen some growth with his new team.

"We're progressing, it's slow but we're getting there," he said. "We're having to change the mentality a little bit and get them used to the heat and get them used to hitting and tackling. That would be our short fall right now, so we've been hitting that hard in practice."

As far the heat? The Raiders have adjusted accordingly with practices mid-morning and in the afternoons, always trying to keep hydrated throughout the sessions. Wednesday the temperature reached 104 degrees here in West Point.

Merchant says their confidence is slowly getting better, with only a few days of setbacks. The offensive line will be key this season, especially at center, but there are several players who are having to learn new positions and have adjusted accordingly so far.

Oak Hill will have their first taste of game action next Thursday when they travel to Columbus for a jamboree at Heritage Academy. They open up against Bessemer (Ala.) and then play Tuscaloosa Christian.

"Really, until we get into live action and see how they're going to react, we don't know yet," he said.

Oak Hill finished 3-8 last season and are looking to rebound with a duel-threat quarterback system featuring Jeb Stevens and Conner Baird. Merchant said he used the system while coaching with his father.

"We have at least a two man rotation," Merchant said. "One that's a better thrower and one that's a better runner. It helps especially with our numbers. It keeps the guys fresh and of course if one gets hot, we'll keep him in."

The Raiders were primarily line up in the I-formation, and because of Merchant's defensive mentality, they will do their best to control the clock.

"Everything we do is going to be running the clock and trying to play on defense," he said.

Oak Hill opens the season at home August 19 versus Newton.

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