Football teams take next step
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s another key step on the road to a new high-school football season.
Teams were permitted to begin summer workouts on June 8, but there were numerous restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.
While those restrictions have been loosened as the summer has gone along, players haven’t been permitted to put the pads on, and full-contact practices haven’t been allowed.
That’s about to change.
As the calendar shifts to August, teams will finally be allowed to put the pads on as they get ready for a season that begins on Sept. 4.
Official preseason practice kicked off last week, and teams had five days of acclimation before getting the go-ahead to hold full-contact practices.
It’s been an unusual spring and summer for football teams across the state.
For nearly three months beginning in the middle of March, teams weren’t able to get together because of the coronavirus lockdown.
Teams were able to resume workouts in June, but what they’ve been able to do has been limited.
Activities that have been commonplace in previous summers, including seven-on-seven competitions and position camps, weren’t allowed.
Teams have also been able to hold 11-on-11 scrimmages in past summers, giving coaches an idea of what the players can do in game-like situations with the pads on.
Instead, there hasn’t been any contact this summer, and since there was no spring practice either, coaches have been limited in what they’ve been able to see from the players.
“We haven’t seen them in contact (situations),” said Matt Napier, LaGrange’s first-year head coach. “So we really don’t know. We’ve been working hard this summer, but we need to put the pads on.”
At Callaway, head coach Pete Wiggins said “we’re excited about putting the pads on.”
“It’s been so long since we’ve been in a competition setting,” Wiggins added. “The kids, they’ve worked extremely hard over the last two months in the weight room, and on the field during the time that we’ve had. To get the shoulder pads on, and the helmets, and to get out on the field and to be allowed contact again, it’s special.”
Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said the process is a bit different this year as opposed to previous summers.
“You usually go from the five-day acclimation with helmets to shells, and then into full gear,” Glisson said. “We’re speeding the process up going full gear on Monday.”
From watching the players in practice, though, he knows they’re ready to take things to the next level.
“The guys are ready to hit each other a little bit,” Glisson said. “We’re kind of banging together without equipment on.”
Callaway, LaGrange and Troup will each play preseason games on Aug. 21 and Aug. 28 before they begin playing for keeps in the regular season.
While LaGrange and Troup open the regular season on Sept. 4, Callaway will begin its season on Sept. 11.
The regular season was originally going to start on Aug. 21, but the Georgia High School Association decided to push everything back two weeks.
That was welcome news for Napier, who is in his first season as LaGrange’s head coach after spending the previous 15 years as Callaway’s offensive coordinator.
“It’s actually good that we got this extra time,” Napier said. “It’s a long time for a kid to wait to play, but it gives you an opportunity to almost go through some spring-practice scenarios with these extra two weeks.”
Callaway and Troup, meanwhile, both have veteran coaches in place.
Wiggins has been Callaway’s head coach since 2005, and he has an overall record of 138-47 in 15 seasons.
This has obviously been different than any other offseason Callaway has had, and Wiggins is glad to see his players once again be able to put on the full uniform.
“I talked to the guys yesterday about the opportunities that we have, and also about the opportunities that sometimes you don’t have,” Wiggins said. “And for the last five, six months, we’ve dealt with the coronavirus, and a lot of opportunity was taken from us. So, Monday’s a special day, and just to get back on the field and be in full gear, it’s an exciting day for us.”
At Troup, Glisson returns for his sixth season, and he has led the team to 35 wins over the past four years after a 1-9 season in 2015.
Glisson is looking forward to leading a new team onto the field this fall.
“I like this group,” Glisson said. “I like the makeup of it.”