Summertime football arrives
By Kevin Eckleberry
LAGRANGE – Let the grind resume.
At the close of spring practice, the local high-school football players get a bit of a break as the school year winds down.
That break will end on Monday when the football teams from Callaway, LaGrange and Troup each begin their summer workout schedules.
In additions to daily workouts, players will participate in seven-on-seven passing camps and 11-on-11 competitions, and many of them will also take part in position camps while going on various recruiting visits as well.
It’s all leading up to the final week of July when preseason practice officially gets under way, and the regular season begins on Aug. 17 when Troup hosts Hardaway.
Spring practice for the local teams ended on May 19 when Troup and Callaway played at Callaway Stadium, and LaGrange finished its spring with a game at Manchester on May 12.
“When we come back on June 5, it’s full go,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said.
High-school football is a year-round business with breaks thrown in here and there, and the summer months are a big part of that.
The foundation of a team’s summer program are the daily strength and conditioning sessions which include weight-lifting and some work on the field.
Teams also participate in seven-on-seven passing camps, as well as 11-on-11 competitions that better simulate what a real game is like, and some of those are full-contact.
LaGrange will host two 11-on-11 competitions during the summer, one on June 20, and one on July 15.
“The one in June, we’ve got about three schools that have committed,” LaGrange head coach Dialleo Burks said. “The one in July, we’ve got about 10 that are coming, and that’ll be at the stadium.”
Burks said the school’s facilities will be open from Monday through Thursday for workouts.
“Other than that, we’ll get some guys to camps, try to get them scholarships,” Burks said.
For Callaway, the work of preparing for a new season began in earnest in early January when the offseason conditioning program got under way.
Then it was on to spring practice, and now the summer program is set to get under way.
“It started back on Jan. 4 with our after-school program,” Wiggins said. “We had 51 workouts leading up the spring starting. The kids busted their butts. We just have to keep working through the summer and get ready for August.”
Callaway completed spring practice with an impressive performance against Troup.
Callaway led 7-3 at the half when the starters were in the game, and it scored two more touchdowns in the second half to win 21-3.
“I feel good about it,” Wiggins said. “I felt like our kids played hard, and they’re excited.”
While disappointed that his team lost, Glisson felt the game was an extremely positive experience heading into the summer.
“I think the game with Callaway might be the best thing that ever happened to us,” Glisson said. “We didn’t get embarrassed, but we got beat. So it gives us something to be mad about all summer. And the second thing is nobody got hurt.”
Glisson said he was glad to see that his players were upset after the loss, even if it was just a spring game.
“That’s always good,” Glisson said. “If we’re bottle-flipping, you want to win.”
LaGrange wrapped up its spring practice with a game against a strong Manchester team.
Manchester scored two touchdowns in the first half, and it won 14-0 after a scoreless second half.
“It’s a process,” Burks said. “We’re working, and the guys are working.”
Looking ahead to a new season, while Callaway and Troup will look to build on successful seasons, LaGrange will attempt to turn things around.
The Cavaliers had the best season in school history.
Callaway went 13-1, won the Region 5-AA championship and reached the final four of the state playoffs before losing to Benedictine.
It was the Cavaliers’ second trip to the final four in four years, and they have established themselves as one of the state’s elite programs under Wiggins.
“It’s a tremendous amount of work, from the time you begin in the offseason, and the practices,” Wiggins said. “There’s a lot that goes into it, and the kids love it. And they’re committed to it, and they’re committed to one another. That’s part of us what makes us successful, is the commitment to one another.”
The Cavaliers figure to be one of Class AA’s top teams again this season, although there are some significant holes to fill with the departure of a strong senior class.
“We lost nine seniors from last year,” Wiggins said. “They were a very special group.”
Troup enjoyed a breakthrough 2016 season.
After the Tigers went 1-9 in 2015, they strung eight straight wins together at one point a year ago and finished 8-3.
Troup played for the Region 5-AAAA championship against Cartersville and hosted a playoff game.
Most of the key players from last year’s team are returning, so expectations will be high.
“Last year we snuck up some folks,” Glisson said. “There won’t be any sneaking this year.”
For LaGrange, the 2016 season was a difficult one.
The Grangers went 2-3 against a tough slate of non-region foes, but they went winless in Region 5-AAAA to finish 2-8.
It will be a new-look team this fall.
While the Grangers struggled a year ago, there was still talent on the roster, and 13 of the players signed football scholarships.
There will be quite a few new starters this fall, and the coaching staff has a new look as well.
Burks is returning for his fourth season as head coach, and he’ll be joined by a number of new assistants.
The spring game gave Burks an opportunity to get to interact with his coaches in a game setting.
“I’m learning the staff,” Burks said. “How we act in certain situations, our mentality. We’re still learning all of that.”