Grangers continue to get ready
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The beat goes on for the LaGrange High football team.
While there is plenty of uncertainty in the world of sports in the era of the coronavirus, the Grangers are going full-speed ahead in preparation for a season they fully expect to begin in a little more than a month.
Matt Napier, LaGrange’s first-year head coach, is encouraged to see the Georgia High School Association easing up on the restrictions that were put in place at the start of summer workouts on Aug. 8.
This week, teams were able to begin holding intra-squad competitions such as seven-on-seven drills, although players still aren’t permitted to wear helmets or pads.
“We’re throwing the ball around, we’re doing seven-on-sevens,” Napier said on Thursday morning while watching his players work out on the grass of Granger Park. “We’re scrimmaging, we’re doing all those type things. It’s good to get out and compete. It’s definitely starting to feel a little bit more like football, and it’s good to see progress from GHSA. Every step that we get to take toward playing we’re excited about.”
If everything goes on as scheduled, LaGrange will play preseason games on Aug. 7 and Aug. 14 before opening the regular season on Aug. 21 at Upson-Lee.
The Grangers were in the midst of their offseason strength and conditioning program and preparing for the start of spring practice when everything was shut down because of the coronavirus.
For nearly three months, the players and coaches weren’t able to have face-to-face contact, so everything was done virtually.
On June 8 teams were given the go-ahead to begin voluntary summer workouts, and the Grangers were together for three weeks before taking some time off for the GHSA-mandated dead week.
On Monday morning the Grangers got back to work, and Napier has been happy with what he’s seen.
“It’s been awesome,” Napier said. “We’ve got right under 50 out here today, and the kids have been doing good. I’ve been pleased with their effort and their work ethic.”
This has been an offseason like no other, and Napier knows how critical it is for every player to be fully invested in the process.
“When you’re limited, when you’re short on time to get ready to play, you need full commitment, and that’s what we’ve had,” Napier said. “We’ve had all the kids buying in and coming every day, and it’s been a good opportunity for us to get better in a short period of time.”
Voluntary summer workouts will continue through July 27 when official preseason practice will get underway, and less than a month after that the regular season will begin.
Napier’s hope is that as the days and weeks go along, teams will be permitted to do more and more.
“We’re making progress, and I think we’ll hear something in the next couple of days about next week, maybe even being able to do a little more,” Napier said. “Obviously helmets are the next step, and obviously from there you can continue to add to that. We’ll see how that goes.
“I think things are headed in a positive direction, and our kids are definitely excited about the opportunity to play, and they’re working really hard, and we’re going to attack it with the mentality that everything’s going as normal.”