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Football teams return to work

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

Football is back.

Nearly three months ago, all high-school sports activities in the state were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

From a football standpoint, that decision put a halt to all offseason strength and conditioning programs, and it meant the cancelation of spring practice.

On Monday, the sounds of weights clanging, and of coaches encouraging players, could be heard once again.

A recent decision by the Georgia High School Association gave sports teams in the state the go-ahead to resume workouts this week, with plenty of restrictions.

Teams can’t use balls, social distancing must be maintained, and workout groups are limited to 20 people, including players and coaches.

While it was hardly business as usual, the football coaches were happy to have the players back on campus in preparation for a regular season that is scheduled to begin on Aug. 21, with preseason games set for Aug. 7.

At LaGrange, first-year head coach Matt Napier said the players “were excited and ready to work.”

“Obviously we’ve got a long way to go in terms of getting ready, to have kids in playing shape,” Napier said. “They were definitely not at their peak. They struggled a little bit with the conditioning, which we knew they would. We knew that would be an issue. You can tell the kids have been working on their own, but it’s different. The tempo of the workout is high.”

Napier was, though, extremely pleased with the way the players kept plugging away when things were difficult.

“What I saw that I liked was kids were overcoming adversity,” Napier said. “There were some tough times, and they were getting fatigued, but they were pushing through that fatigue, and that’s the sign of a winner, the sign of a kid that’s hungry to win.”

Napier inherits a team that went 2-8 last season and has won a combined six games over the past four years.

At Troup, head coach Tanner Glisson welcomed the team members to the school’s indoor practice facility on Monday morning.

Glisson said a focus of the first day was getting the players used to the new way of doing things.

“It’s a situation where you really have to crawl before you can walk,” Glisson said. “You have to really slow down, and keep with the protocols, do a good job with the screening, do a good job with the disinfecting. Maybe you don’t get as much done as you typically would.”

Glisson added that on the first day “you’re trying to gauge where are they as far as conditioning and strength. We’ve never had a break this long before, so it’s really a balancing deal.”

Glisson wasn’t sure what to expect since the players have been working on their own for more than two months, but he was pleased with what he saw.

“For the most part, our older guys came in in good shape,” Glisson said. “The young guys left something to be desired, but that’s to be expected. They’re younger, and not as seasoned. But all in all, it went pretty good. We’re only missing one or two guys out of 100, so that wasn’t bad.”

Troup went 6-5 last season and reached the state playoffs for the fourth straight year.

At Callaway, head coach Pete Wiggins enjoyed seeing his players again.

“I was really excited to see our kids,” Wiggins said. “I haven’t got to see them in person now in so long. When you haven’t seen guys in three months that for the past three or four years you spent so much time with, they become part of your family, and I’ve missed them very much. To see them today for the first time was really special.”

The day began early at Callaway, and it ended at about 7 p.m. when the final group of players finished their workout.

“I thought they worked hard,” Wiggins said. “ There was great energy. I thought it was a great day.”

Callaway went 12-2 last season, and it reached the state semifinals.