The Bowdon High School football coach has to replace every skill position this fall, as graduation hit the Red Devil backfield hard this year.
"I think it's very important. At the end of the practice you could tell some of our kids were reacting a little bit quicker and picking up the receivers. I thought as we went on, we got better. Considering this is our first one, I think we did pretty well," Hochstetler said.
And while the weather forced a brief lightning delay, not playing in the heat was another advantage Tuesday afternoon as Bowdon hosted Central in 7-on-7 action.
"We stopped play for a while, but I think I'd rather have that cloud cover than be out here soaking in that sun at 5 o'clock. I thought our kids responded well," Hochstetler said. "We are so young and right now we're thinking instead of reacting. I thought Central and us, I thought we did a pretty good job."
For its first 7-on-7 practice of the summer, Hochstetler felt his team did all right, worked out some kinks and will have things to build on as it continues toward the first day of official practice on July 25.
"I thought we got a lot accomplished. We made some mistakes, but we learned from them. That's what it's all about — just learning. Tuesday we'll learn a lot more when we go against Mt. Zion," Hochstetler said. "It is in a sense, it is win-win. We're learning from it. We get to play a lot of young kids and a lot of reps. It's a win-win situation all together. It's not like we're trying to beat our brains out, both squads trying to learn something from it."
The focus is new starting quarterback in rising junior Marcus Thurman, who played receiver last year. There will be some adjusting for Thurman — who was the back-up last season — to being the starting quarterback.
"He's rusty. Early [Tuesday] he was throwing high passes, but he corrected that problem. It's going to be a slow process, but I think by Game 1 he'll be ready to go. We've got young receivers. The only experience we have is tight end. A lot of times we'll use a two tight end set to take advantage of that experience," Hochstetler said.
The strong suit for the Red Devils will be their offensive line — which doesn't compete in 7-on-7 drills — and those tight ends. With three seniors in Logan Freeman, Logan Reeves and Hunter Lewis, the tight ends will be a big part of the Bowdon offense this season.
"Tight end, we've got three seniors playing there," Hochstetler said. "Hopefully our tight ends are really going to be big for us."
Next Bowdon will meet up with Mt. Zion on Tuesday, Central again next Thursday and Carrollton's tournament on July 24.
"We've got Mt. Zion next week, Central next week and then the day before we start, the 24th, we've got the tournament at Carrollton. We'll have six or seven that day and we'll have as many as nine. Getting together with just one squad like Central, I think that's really good. We can do a lot of coaching out here. We've been doing this for the longest with Central. I think both squads get a lot out of it," Hochstetler said.
Now that it's started, Hochstetler is ready to keep it going and keep getting his team valuable experience as there are a lot of unanswered questions at the skill position heading into this season.
"I'm just glad we got this going. We learned a lot from it [Tuesday]. It's a lot better than throwing against yourselves. It went well. We weren't dragging because of the shade we got from the clouds. We learned a lot," Hochstetler said.