The Evans and Greenbrier high school football teams will compete in the same region next season, and this month the Knights and the Wolfpack were on the same page.
Both squads held spring practice in January.
The Georgia High School Association mandates two weeks in May for Spring football practices, but the GHSA does allow some leeway for different dates.
"You have to write a letter to the GHSA explaining why it's better to have spring practice now instead of in May," Pack coach Mickey Derrick said. "They haven't turned us down yet.
Derrick and Evans coach Marty Jackson each opted for a change of seasons. The Knights and Pack both conducted Spring practice Jan. 12-24.
Wolfpack head coach Mickey Derrick said he prefers early spring
practices because fewer athletes are lost to other sports.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"We get a lot more out of Spring football at this time of year. We're not losing as many kids to other sports," Derrick said. "We sat down and figured it out - there would have been 33 kids playing other sports if we had held Spring practice in May."
As it turned out, Greenbrier was missing only five football players who are now on the school's basketball team. Evans had just six athletes (five basketball players and one wrestler) unable to attend Spring practice.
Like Derrick, Jackson prefers holding Spring practice in January.
"In May, we're so close to exam time and there can be a little bit of a burnout syndrome," Jackson said. "It's a little more exciting to have Spring practice this time of year. The college bowl games have just ended, and the Super Bowl's coming up."
The football programs at Evans and Greenbrier have generated some excitement in their own right.
Greenbrier had more than 100 players out for Spring practice, the most Derrick has ever had. He attributes the increase to the Pack's strong 2003 season, when the squad qualified for the Class AAAA state playoffs.
Evans, meanwhile, won three region games last season, and the Knights are positioned for an even better showing in 2004, because the team will drop down to Class AAAA and out of brutal Region 7-AAAAA.
"The difference is there's not going to be as much speed, week-in and week-out, as there was in the old region," Jackson said. "We're going into a new region, but there are some tough teams. We'll probably still be an underdog."
Building a foundation for success next fall was the objective of this month's workouts at Evans and Greenbrier.
"Basically our philosophy is to just teach offense and defense. There's very little hitting," Derrick said. "We get the basics down, work on technique and just let the eighth-graders get acclimated to high-school football."
Jackson passed out equipment to 60 players, but the rising freshmen from Columbia and Evans middle schools did not participate in Spring practice.
"I met with the eighth-graders, and expect about 40 of them to come to a mini-camp in May," Jackson said. "The coaches like to get to know the younger players on a one-to-one basis, and we also like the veterans to meet these kids in a leadership role instead of in competition."
Although the Knights were itching to hit, contact was not the focus of the spring practice.
"We want to get in about 90 percent of our offense, and work on the little changes we've made," Jackson said. "We were just doing a dry run of how we'll practice next fall."
The upcoming season will mark the first time Greenbrier, Evans and Lakeside have all competed in the same region.
"There are some good football teams in this region," Derrick said. "We'll have to keep working as hard as ever and hope something good happens."
Greenbrier opens the 2004 season Aug. 27 against Morgan County. The Pack also plays nonregion games against Westside and Lincoln County, then tangles with Evans in a Region 2-AAAA contest on Sept. 17.
The Knights open their slate Aug. 20 at Harlem. Evans follows with nonregion games with Jefferson County and Laney.
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