PELL CITY -- Victory Christian head coach Bruce Breland is trying to prepare his team to get comfortable in intense situations. The Lions, just like the rest of the football programs around the state, have made adjustments to the way they workout. Breland has witnessed his team go through the tough changes and he hopes that these moments can be something that they can use during the season.
“Being in the weight room with a mask on is uncomfortable, but a lot of times when you are in the fourth quarter you are uncomfortable,” Breland said. “We talk about working through situations all the time. We were in that situation last season on the field. We pride ourselves on being able to handle things along those lines.”
Breland is entering his 39th season as a head coach and he said leading up to season has been different than the previous seasons due to the pandemic.
“I have been doing this a lot of years and this is definitely a season to remember because of what it has taken to prepare,” Breland said.” When they let us go and couldn't get together anymore, we decided we were going to stay together as a team and we got on Zoom. All the guys got on at 5 p.m. We had great coaches in Coach (Joshua) Taylor and Coach (James) Lucas. They all showed up every day and worked out. We actually gained strength during that time. That's how we stayed together.”
The Lions were motivated to build off of a solid 2019 season.
After getting off to a slow start, the Lions won five of its last seven games to make the playoffs. They (6-5) fell to Pickens County, 31-14 in the first round. This was their first time making the postseason since 2015.
“We believe if we started the season out strong that we would have been one those elite teams at the end,” Breland said. “We have a lot of guys back, so they are hungry to make a difference.
“Just going to the playoffs won’t be good enough for these guys. That's the attitude that they are taking, that's their work ethic and that's what they talk about.
“It is not just coaches’ talk, it is what goes on when they are talking among themselves.”
Victory Christian’s offense played a major role in their success last season. Offensively, the Lions were consistent as they scored 20 or more points in eight of their 11 games. Defensively, Victory Christian struggled at times as they allowed 30 or more points in five games in 2019.
The Lions’ defense showed promise as they played two of their best games of the season when it mattered the most. They shut out Talladega County Central in Week 9 and they held Sumiton Christian to 14 points in the season finale.
“Defensively, we did get better as the season went on,” Breland said. “I think we have to come out that way from the beginning. We have been doing that, practice-wise. We have been mentally coaching them up better. Last summer, they were like it is summer and we really don't have to pay attention. This summer, we have their attention. They are looking forward to it.”
Breland and the Lions coaching staff have spent a lot of time teaching this summer than they have in seasons past. Breland hopes the emphasis on teaching will pay off on the field.
“We have had to back up a little bit and slow things down to try to make up the ground as far as technique and fundamentals that we would normally be teaching them in the spring,” Breland said. “We have really tried to concentrate on that this summer. Hopefully, we have. We are trying to cover all the basics. Nobody knows the right way whether it is NFL, college or high school. We are all searching for answers. Hopefully, we have found or stumbled on the right one.”
The Lions open fall practice on Monday.