Columbia County high schools were abuzz with activity last week as Wednesday marked the first day of football practice.
While teams have activities throughout the summer, they still must take the first five days as a mandatory conditioning time, with players on the field for no longer than two hours. The only allowable equipment is a helmet.
Getting the team on the field is what the coaches want, but to just have helmets on can be somewhat of a tease in the early going.
“I’m ready to put shoulder pads on and see who’s physical,” said Lakeside head coach Jarrett Troxler, whose squad starts practice at 8 a.m. “We’re a spread offense and we get a stigma of that, which is fine, but I want a physical football team. It’s hard to make sure you’re really physical when you don’t have shoulder pads on.”
Lakeside and Evans tried to beat the heat with morning practices, while Greenbrier, Grovetown and Harlem held practice at night. Augusta Christian and Augusta Prep are scheduled to start practice Monday, with the Lions beginning at 7:30 a.m. and the Cavaliers holding morning and evening practices.
Harlem head coach Jimmie Lewis said he would be careful with his players, especially after last year when starting quarterback Trey Price tore his ACL at Midnight Madness.
“I kicked my butt all over the place for about two weeks,” said Lewis, blaming himself for not noticing his quarterback in the drill. ‘‘I guarantee you we’ve got pink jerseys with neon lights on all the quarterbacks this year.”
Thursday, Evans head coach Marty Jackson said he couldn’t sleep after the stress of the first day of practice, but eagerly anticipates the season.
“We’re excited about what we’re doing, the kids have bought into some things and made a few changes and it’s a fun time to be at Evans,” said Jackson, sweating as much as his players in the hot early morning sun. “We’ve got the potential to be a good little ol’ football team. We’re in a brutal region, but you know, we’ve been in brutal regions before.”
In the end, the limits on early conditioning probably work out for the best.
“It’s really just getting adjusted to the heat and wearing a helmet,” said Evans senior wide receiver Jalen Saunders. “Your neck has to get used to wearing that much weight on its head. And we’re getting our legs conditioned for next week so we’re not just dying while we’re hitting each other.”