August 1, 2013

Are you ready for this?

Pads go on for full-contact high school football practices today

It’s time to get physical.

Georgia High School Association rules allow football teams to begin practicing in full pads today, and most of the seven programs in Murray and Whitfield counties will take advantage of that opportunity for full contact on the field.

While most teams around the state have been going through football drills of some type since spring practice, the workouts took on a more serious tone with the start of the official preseason and the GHSA’s conditioning period on July 25. For a five-day stretch, teams have been permitted to practice in shorts, T-shirts and helmets to allow players to acclimate to the heat and coaching staffs to focus on conditioning.

But once the pads go on, practices will look a lot more like what you’ll see on Friday nights once the season kicks off later this month. With pads on, teams are also permitted to practice longer during a single session — from a maximum of two hours to three hours — and may take the field twice a day for a maximum of five hours.

“I have had enough of these short practices,” Southeast Whitfield coach Sean Gray said. “It has been good getting out there and getting moving, but we are ready to start hitting. The kids and the coaches are fired up for this morning.”

Both Gray and Dalton coach Matt Land mentioned the word “physical” when talking about things they look for in the first few practices with pads.

“Everything that we have done to this point — seven-on-seven, combines, camps — has been merely academic,” Land said. “We need to see how physical we can be as a team. All the other stuff has been talk. Now we finally get that time where we see that complete football player.

“Fifty percent of this game is athleticism, and 50 percent is toughness. We only have 10 days in the spring to see how mentally tough these kids are, and half of that time is spent teaching your younger players. You don’t really see it until you can put the pads on today. This is the most important time of the year.”

Land’s Catamounts and North Murray are both at Tusculum College near Knoxville, Tenn., for mini-camp sessions that will last into the weekend. Other teams are sticking around their own facilities, but the objectives are similar no matter the location of the practices.

Gray, who is entering his second season in charge of the Raiders, is likely to soon have a better idea of what type of impact he made during his first full offseason at Southeast.

“I have certain things I want to see,” Gray said. “I want to see how physically tough we are and physically strong we are. I want to see who can come back on that second day and that third day and see if they can hit just as hard and run just as fast. There is a whole lot of difference between what we have done this summer and real football. I think this team is physically tough, and we will find out.”

Dalton — the only area team to make the state playoffs a year ago — kicks off its season a week earlier than other area teams, hosting Ringgold on Aug. 23. But the pace is picking up for everyone today, regardless of their opening date.

Some area teams will need to make big leaps after struggling a year ago, but some will look to build on what happened last season. Christian Heritage finished 5-5 in its first year competing in the GHSA.

“It was all new to us, and you have to play in those kind of games and experience them and learn from them,” Lions coach Preston Poag said. “We played some of those games last year that we should have won, but that was good experience. They have a little more confidence. We were toe to toe with all of the teams that we played.”

North Murray — which had a 1-19 record through its first two seasons of varsity football in 2010 and 2011 — also finished 5-5 last year, the first with David Gann as head coach. Much of this time last year was spent installing a new offense and a new way of running the program, and Gann’s second preseason still includes laying the foundation.

“In a sense, it is (less exciting),” Gann said. “But it takes more than a year to get your system and staff in place. We’ve hired four new coaches. We have a new defensive coordinator teaching a new system. We also lost 24 seniors who all played. It’s still a rebuilding process for us with new coaches, a new system and a lot of young kids with little Friday night experience. What we’re trying to do is get to a place where we have 20-25 seniors here each year and a good staff so we can have some continuity in place.”

Chad Brewer is in the place Gann and Gray were last season. Brewer has taken over as head coach of the Murray County Indians, a program that finished 0-10 in 2012. Being in a new job at a program that has struggled as of late — the Indians haven’t had a winning season since 2005, which was also the last time they made the state playoffs — Brewer has seen the benefit of the five heat acclimation days leading up to today’s full-pad practices.

“It’s a little bit different for us, because we have a new coaching staff and are installing a new offense and new defense,” Brewer said. “It has worked in our favor.

“If I was a veteran coach and I had been here a while, it’d drive me nuts.”

Northwest Whitfield had arguably the biggest heartbreak of all last season, and that might provide special motivation this year. The Bruins lost 40-37 in triple overtime to Gilmer in the 2013 regular-season finale with a state playoffs spot going to the winner. Instead of trying to build on positives, players are looking to use the end-of-season negative as motivation — if getting physical didn’t already bring enough of it.

“We’ve mentioned it,” Northwest coach Josh Robinson said of the final game. “Obviously, you can’t forget something like that. The last two years, we’ve missed the playoffs by a combined four points. We lost to Rome by a point and then last year lost the game in triple overtime. ... It’s definitely a motivating factor.”

Coahulla Creek didn’t begin its conditioning period until this past Friday and so will be a day behind in putting on pads. Colts coach Jared Hamlin, whose team is preparing for its second varsity season, is definitely ready to get to that phase.

“There isn’t anything better than the first day you get pads on and hear that pop and crack,” he said. “That excitement will always be there for coaches and players.”

While that initial burst of adrenaline is nice, Hamlin knows it will only last so long. Like all coaches, he is eager to see who can carry that energy into the season, when it will matter most.

“What I have seen to this point is a maturity that we haven’t seen before,” he said. “I am starting to see them grow up and the leadership is starting to take over. Right now, as far as our intensity, we are trying to get more up-tempo and that is finally starting to click. I am hoping that we will have the physicality to go with that mentality. I am excited to see what happens then.”

Sports writer Chris Whitfield contributed to this story.

Text Only
  • Todd roasted 1 mlh.jpg One last 'Goodbye' for coach Todd

    Charles Todd talks to parents and coaches before his going-away party Tuesday in the Dalton High School commons area.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fishing Lures3cw.jpg Turner lured into love of learning fishing business

    Fishing and tall tales go hand in hand, and after nearly three decades in a business supplying local anglers, Phil Turner has heard just about all of them.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S. Amateur dreams over for local golfers

    Dalton golfers Chase Miller and Will Morrow traveled to Cincinnati on Tuesday in an attempt to earn a spot in the U.S. Amateur Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, but neither earned one of the three qualifying spots at the 6,588-yard, par-70 course at Camargo Club.

    July 23, 2014

  • Report: Boggs now with Giants

    Dalton’s Mitchell Boggs has signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants, according to Contract information, along with which minor league affiliate Boggs, a pitcher, will start with, was not available in the report, and Boggs was not listed on any of the online rosters for any of the Giants’ minor league affiliates.

    July 21, 2014

  • SE wrestling practice 5 mlh.jpg Herndon leaving Raiders to coach at Calhoun; new coach named at SE Whitfield

    Michael Herndon’s successful three-year run as Southeast Whitfield High School’s wrestling coach has come to an end.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Hipp makes cut at qualifying tourney

    Chatsworth golfer Colby Hipp earned the chance to play on today in a U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament at Reynolds Plantation-Great Waters in Eatonton.

    July 21, 2014

  • 7on7 day 2 '14 17 mlh.jpg Devin Golden: Friday signals gridiron days’ official start

    Seven-on-seven football was a good placeholder, but it’s time to begin talking about the real thing.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • CCAC-B&W.jpg CCAC has strong showing at 14-and-under state meet

    The Carpet Capital Aquatics Club had 16 club records broken in a 12th-place finish at the 2014 Georgia 14-and-under Long Course State Championship meet Saturday at Georgia Tech’s swimming facility.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Loran Smith: Golf now in era of McIlroy after Open

    Royal & Ancient officials, under whose auspices the Open championship is conducted each year, were blessed with a sun-kissed start of the final round of the 143rd playing of this historic event.

    July 21, 2014

  • Motocross kid 6 mlh.jpg Dirt, gas and guts

    Lucas Amos is like a lot of other 6-year-olds who will be going into first grade at Tunnel Hill Elementary this school year.
    He likes to play the video game sensation Minecraft, building different structures and fending off zombies when the sun goes down. He likes to spend time with his grandparents, traveling around the Southeast with them most every weekend.
    And he likes to play in the dirt.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

Devin Golden's sports updates
AP Video
Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: MH17 Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball