Augusta Christian football coach Keith Walton gave his players an ultimatum at practice Wednesday.
He would turn and walk to the hill behind one end zone, then turn around and begin walking the length of the field.
If he caught up to any of his players, who would be running and flopping on their belly every 5 yards running a conditioning drill, those players would have to start over.
Walton blew his whistle, turned and began walking. There was no doubt who was in charge.
The first-year head coach has had control of the team since spring practice, after being named replacement to Bruce Lane.
He said he hasn't deviated much from Lane's system, except for working in concepts learned from area college coaches. Walton was head assistant to Lane before moving up, and is keeping much the same during his first season with the reins.
"What does feel different is all the administrative stuff that comes with it," Walton said. "Last year, as head assistant, all I'm dealing with is the kids."
Walton started morning practice last week at 6 a.m. to ensure rules regarding the heat index didn't force the team indoors. On Wednesday, the players arrived about 5 a.m. after practicing until 9:30 p.m. the night before. They would have Wednesday evening off to allow them to attend midweek church functions.
But not before everyone crossed the goal line in the up-down drill.
When the final player was across, after teammates surrounded him shouting encouragement, Walton told them to go home and rest, to allow their bodies to recover. It had been a long 12 hours. Walton feels confident in where the team stands as it prepares to play host to a jamboree Thursday.
"I'm really excited," Walton said. "The kids are looking good. They're picking up on the concepts being taught."
Walton said he has changed the structure of practice some since taking over.
During "two-a-days," with a two-and-a-half hour practice in the morning and another at night, the Lions focus on one side of the ball for the duration of each.
One session is spent on learning the offense, and the other learning the defense, with special teams work mixed in. Walton said the format allows more to get done, and for more time to be spent working with individual players.
Walton still has some work to do to ensure the pieces come together. Jackson Whitley, who likely would have been the Lions starting quarterback, left the school in the spring for North Augusta.
Evan Wells, a senior who was the team's top receiver last season, has been among the players working at quarterback.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.