They may not be big in number, but the Freeport Bulldogs are going to be hard-hitting and physical.
“I think our strength is our physicality and our toughness,” said head Freeport Coach Shaun Arntz.
Freeport went toe to toe with Baker in the spring.
“We didn’t back down from them and we tackled better than we had in the past,” he said.
As for the numbers, in 2016 the Bulldogs had 52 players in grades nine through 12. Last year, they had 46.
“Right now, I’m counting 43, but accounting for about 33,” Arntz said, noting he hopes to get a few more once school starts back.
However, for now they are working hard and getting used to the heat and battling the elements of lightning and rain.
“It doesn’t help, but we just keep preaching to everybody, focus on what you can control and you can control your attention to detail, your effort, your attitude and all that stuff,” Arntz said. “The majority of our guys have been doing such a good job with that … been very mature about it and have come in with a business-like attitude every day. So I’m very pleased with that.”
Arntz also spoke highly of his skills players.
“We just don’t have a lot of depth. I like the guys we have out there. We’re just going to be in a bind if somebody is too tired to go or heaven forbid if they get injured,” Arntz said.
Starting in the quarterback slot for the Bulldogs is 6-foot-1, 168-pound Justin Clark.
Clark has been a three-year starter for the ’Dogs, but mainly on the defensive side of the ball. It wasn’t that he couldn’t throw the ball, Arntz said, they just had other quarterbacks.
Nevertheless, he’s excited to work with Clark.
“He’s got all the intangibles you want in a quarterback,” Arntz said. “He’s athletic, he’s smart, he’s dependable, he’s trustworthy. I’m very confident going into the season with him.
“He’s somebody that’s going to mess up, but he’s going to learn from his mistakes. He’s going to be coachable, he’s going to be a good leader … all those things,” he added.
In the backfield will be junior running back Brandon Siples.
“He’s as good as we’ve had at this school,” Arntz said. “He has a low center of gravity, fast guy, got good breakaway speed, very strong. He does a very good job.”
As for the offensive line, the Bulldogs have a couple of seniors, Cade Layton and Fernando Rodriguez, that will mark their fourth year in the program.
Layton is 6-foot-4, 260 pounds and Rodriguez checks in at 6-foot and 230 pounds.
“I feel good about our size up front,” Arntz said, noting they don’t have that one guy that’s 10 times bigger or a player that is 10 times smaller.
“For the most part everybody is on the same wave length in size. I feel like we’re on a happy medium on that,” he said.
The average size on the offensive line is 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. And out of five, a couple of them will play offense and defense.
“We’re making good strides on defense,” Arntz said, noting their defense plays into their strengths of physicality and toughness.
“We’re just going to keep working hard and when we get good weather, take advantage of it and move on,” he said.
The Bulldogs will host the South Walton Seahawks in a Kickoff Classic at 7 p.m. Aug. 17.
Freeport's first regular season game is at 7 p.m. Aug. 24 at Vernon.