When Harlem High School football coach Jimmie Lewis decided to hold a "Midnight Madness" practice prior to the 2000 season, some folks wondered if Lewis already had gone a bit mad.
A high school football team donning gear and doing Oklahoma tackling drills at the witching hour may sound insane, but Lewis has turned out to be crazy like a fox - since instituting Midnight Madness, the Dogs have advanced to the state playoffs two straight seasons.
That's reason enough to turn on the stadium lights at Harlem High and do it all over again when the clock strikes 12 tonight.
"I didn't know how it was going to go over, but it's gone great. It's been a pleasant surprise," Lewis said of the late-night session. "The kids always want to know if we're going to do it again."
Midnight Madness coincides with Georgia High School Association rules on full-contact football workouts. Monday is the first day GHSA squads can wear pads and start hitting, and Harlem's players can't wait.
"We'll have some of the hardest hitting of the year," Lewis says.
The Dogs won't be the only ones having fun, as Lakeside High School football coach Randy Hill has decided to let the Panthers pounce into Midnight Madness.
"At 12:01, we'll be in full pads at the stadium. We might just go for 15 minutes, something to get them pumped up for the next day," Hill said. "We'll spend the night, then go to three practices on Monday, with more of a focus on special teams. Then it will be two-a-day practices until school starts."
Hill, who is in his first season as head football coach at Lakeside, admits to taking a page out of Lewis's playbook.
"Jimmie doesn't want to give away all of his secrets, but, yeah, he's done a great job with that," Hill said. "What (the midnight practice) does is build a lot of team unity."
The Evans and Greenbrier football teams also will be on their home turf tonight at midnight, but the players will be hitting the sack, not each other. Both squads are having sleep-over camps today through Wednesday.
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