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Rang finishes first spring practices as Wildcat coach

Derek Rang recently completed his first spring practice as Oak Ridge High School’s football coach.

The Wildcats wrapped up their 2023 spring season with a joint practice with Halls on Wednesday, May 17.

The Wildcats, who had a spring game with Rhea County canceled, didn’t play a traditional game to end the spring.

Instead, Rang and Red Devils Head Coach Brent Hughes borrowed a page from the NFL playbook and had a joint practice session, giving Halls and Oak Ridge the opportunity to emphasize football fundamentals. The day culminated with an 11-on-11 scrimmage.

“It wasn’t quite a scrimmage; it was more like a joint practice,” said Rang, who was hired as the Wildcats’ head coach in January. “We did some individual and group work and then we finished with some 11-on-11. It was a good work day.”

Spring practice traditionally signals the beginning of a new season.

It begins a long stretch of preparation that last through the long hot days of summer with players spending the bulk of their time running and in the weight room working on strength and conditioning.

Rang came to Oak Ridge over the winter to take the reins for the Wildcats after the team parted ways with Scott Cummings after just one season.

Cummings guided the Wildcats to a 7-6 record and an appearance in the TSSAA Class 5A quarterfinals in 2022 before he left the program.

With a new coach, spring practice takes on a different mission, even with a team as talented as Oak Ridge, as the coaching staff becomes acquainted with the players and work begins to install offensive and defensive schemes.

“You have talent here; you have some great players who have made contributions in the program for the last two or even three years,” Rang said. “But this is when you do the work installing your offense and your defense.

“This is also a time to evaluate talent. You want to see how your players respond and react to certain situations in practice,” he said.

“We’ve been pretty pleased with what we’ve seen.”

Next for the Wildcats is that stretch of summer work as the team prepares for its season opener.

Oak Ridge will open its 2023 campaign on Friday, Aug. 18, against Jefferson County Patriots at Blankenship Field.

The Patriots, coached by former Tennessee player Spencer Riley, went 7-4 last year and reached the Class 6A playoffs for the second consecutive season after going 0-10 in 2020.