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Football: Winter's first spring
Pinecrest Academy coach Todd Winter, right, gives instructions to players at spring football practice earlier this month at the Paladins field. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Todd Winter is a self-proclaimed perfectionist.

But even Winter, fresh off his first spring practice as head football coach at Pinecrest Academy, is impressed with how fast the Paladins are learning his system.

Winter arrived on campus earlier this year from North Park University in Chicago, Ill., an NCAA Div. III school where he was the offensive coordinator and assistant coach for two seasons. He brings with him the same triple option offense run by Georgia Tech — a system he has played in and coached for a total of 15 years.

Winter and his coaching staff have taken a methodical, step-by-step approach to installing the new offense in a program that has historically operated out of the Wing-T.

“I want them to see the big picture of what’s going to take place,” the coach said.

“It’s important for them to learn each step and technique before we run the offense.

“They are very coachable and disciplined. I’m impressed with how fast they have caught on to the system.”

One of the first things Winter does is explain on the board where each position will line up. The players then watch film of a team running the play.

Once they learn in film room, they break into positions and go practice on the field. Only after each position gets in some individual reps will everyone come together to run the play.

Rising senior quarterback Jimmy Strom, who is also the team’s starting strong safety, was one player who drew Winter’s attention this spring.

“I’m shocked with the decision-making skills of Jimmy Strom,” Winter said. “He has a good handle of the offense and can recognize different [defensive] fronts. He has improved very much.”

The leg strength of kicker/punter Chris Birozes raised the eyebrows of more than just the coaching staff during the spring game. Winter said Birozes can successfully hit field goals in the 50-55 yard range and can punt with a hang time of almost four seconds.

“The officials were even talking about it,” Winter said.

“To have a kicker like that is extremely important. He can flip the field position and turn games around for us.

“We know that when we reach the 25-yard line that we have three points waiting for us.”

Winter also complimented his team for ball security during the spring practices. Even though learning a new offense is difficult and the focus isn’t always on holding onto the ball, the Paladins, who finished 3-7 last season, didn’t lose a fumble during the spring.

“We teach our kids not to put the ball on the ground,” Winter said. “A simple thing, like not putting the ball on the ground, wins games.

“We always practice grip drills. Our quarterback and fullback are doing a good job holding onto the ball.”

One thing the Paladins didn’t spent time on this spring was conditioning. It’s not that Winter doesn’t consider it a priority, but rather, he feels like his practice setup takes care of it.

“I don’t do conditioning,” the coach said. “A lot of teams you’ll see have players standing around while other groups practice. We told our guys that we will constantly be moving, no standing around.

“They’ve bought into it, so we don’t have a need for conditioning.”