Daily photo by Michael Wetzel|
Lawrence County High football coach Ernie Ferguson was busy hanging up jerseys in the team’s locker room Saturday. The Red Devils begin practice for real Monday.
Helmets and shorts, but no pads Monday
High school football practice 24 hours away
By Brooke Milam
You don’t have to remind Falkville High football coach Neil Estes what Monday means.
That’s one of the biggest days of the year for Estes, as Falkville students begin school and his players report for the first day of practice.
And for Alabama high school coaches and players, Monday marks one of the most stressful times of the year — but also one of the most exciting.
“If you wonder how players are feeling, it’s a mixed bag,” Estes said. “With school starting and practice starting on the same day, there’s just a lot going on. But I know they’re probably ready to get going.”
The Alabama High School Athletic Association requires the first three days of practice to be in helmets and shorts, but no pads. Teams are permitted to put on full pads beginning Thursday. The first games are scheduled for Aug. 30.
“We do a lot of learning, a lot of teaching, so that once you throw on the pads, you can get some solid fundamental practice going,” Estes said.
With so many tasks for coaches to juggle at this time of year, Estes isn’t alone as his schedule hits overload.
Lawrence County High coach Ernie Ferguson is one of many who understand.
Daily photo by Michael Wetzel|
Lawrence County High offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Craig Owen gets some sun while cutting grass at the school’s football stadium Saturday afternoon.
Lawrence County schools will start class Thursday, the same day his Red Devils will put on pads for the first time in several months. “It’s a pretty busy time,” Ferguson said.
Teams are allowed to use blocking sleds and dummies for drills during the first three days, which are designated as non-contact practices by the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
According to the AHSAA handbook, the three days of required non-contact practice are, “A period designated for coaches to determine if football players are conditioned physically for football practice.”
“It’s to try to get the kids acclimated to the weather a little bit,” second-year Priceville head coach Donald Weeks said. “Everybody also have their summer programs to help deal with that.”
Weeks’ Bulldogs lifted weights and did other conditioning three days a week in June and four days a week in July. Similar workout plans are set up in most programs to provide a smoother transition to the preseason practice schedule, which is more physically demanding.
It’s been nearly nine months since the Bulldogs suited up. Priceville didn’t play a spring game, and Weeks said that has made his players even more eager to hit the field.
“The players are ready to get the season under way,” Weeks said. “They’re excited to start practice and get back to the game-day experience time.”
Estes agreed that off-season conditioning programs that virtually all schools have in place have players better equipped to begin practice in the hot summer months than they were a decade ago. Even so, the first several days of practice will be geared toward getting players ready physically and building endurance.
“There are different levels of conditioning, and I feel like we’re in decent shape, but it’ll get a lot better in the next two weeks for sure,” Estes said.
The hard work is beginning for local players — both in the classroom and on the field. In addition, Ferguson said his best guess is that players are looking forward to it.
“The first thing is, they don’t want to come back to school,” Ferguson said with a laugh. “But coming off vacation, I think they’re looking forward to it, and they’re all a little antsy to start football. With college and pro football getting started, the anticipation is up. It’s starting to turn into football season.”
Are you ready for some football?
What: The beginning of high school football practice in Alabama.
When: Monday, first official day of practice in shorts and helmets. Teams can begin practicing in full pads Thursday. First games are scheduled for Aug. 30-Sept. 1.
Why: The first three days are in shorts and helmets, mandated by the Alabama High School Athletic Association to provide coaches a period of time to determine if players are conditioned physically for football practice.
Opening-week area schedule
Thursday, Aug. 30: Mount Hope at Brindlee Mountain, Speake at Hatton, Falkville at Danville, Tanner at Clements, Austin at Hartselle.
Friday, Aug. 31: Tarrant at Hazlewood, R.A. Hubbard at Addison, Munford at West Morgan, Ardmore at Elkmont, Holly Pond at West Limestone, Lawrence County at East Lawrence, Priceville at Brewer, Huntsville at Decatur.
Saturday, Sept. 1: Athens at East Limestone.
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