Harlem High School football coach Jimmie Lewis has been battling a case of insomnia, and he has no one to blame but himself.
"I can't even sleep. I'm so excited, I can't wait," Lewis said of the restless nights of anticipation leading up to his team's midnight workout tonight at Harlem.
Georgia High School Association football teams conducted conditioning practices last week, but players cannot practice in full gear until Monday. The Dogs will start hitting each other one minute into the first official day for full-contact on the gridiron.
"It's probably the hardest-hitting practice we have all year," Lewis said. "We might even add a scrimmage this year."
Three seasons ago, Harlem was the first Columbia County football team to hold "Midnight Madness," but the fever is spreading.
Lakeside High School started their own late-night tradition last year, and coach Randy Hill's players also will be working out at the witching hour tonight at Panther Stadium.
Evans High School is joining the fun, as the Knights will have their first midnight workout tonight at Blanchard Stadium.
"That will enhance their programs, I guarantee it," Lewis says. "Once you start it, you can't stop."
Marty Jackson is one of the Midnight Madness addicts. The first-year Evans coash has been conducting midnight practice sessions since his first head-coaching job in the mid 1980s, and he's ready to see how his Knights handle the night moves.
"I think the players will be excited about it," Jackson said. "We've invited the cheerleaders out there, and I'd love to get a crowd out here. It's going to be a short practice, just to whet their appetites."
This is a midnight snack few football players can resist.
"I think it's going to be a lot of fun," Evans junior Brad Freeman said. "A know a couple of guys at Lakeside that did it last year, and they seemed to like it. I think this will help bring our team together."
When Lewis initiated Midnight Madness football practice, he was just trying to inject some excitement into the school's program. The plan worked to perfection, and it's been gaining steam. At Midnight Madness last year, close to 100 Harlem fans were there to see the action, and the Bulldogs have really bought into the idea.
"The players are like me, like a little kid waiting on Christmas morning," Lewis said. "If I told them we weren't doing it, they'd be disappointed. It will be all I can do to keep them in the locker room till 12:01."
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