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HITTING TIME: Area teams ready to get physical

George Whitley

By George Whitley
Aug. 10, 2017 at 9:07 p.m.


Much of the summer was devoted to 7-on-7 drills and the like. This past Monday, many local schools opened preseason practice, consisting of shorts and T-shirts.

The benefit of having those first four days of non-contact work proves invaluable to gauge how much work a player put in during the offseason. And, in some instances, it shows how little effort was offered. Thus, some players report out of shape.

But nothing can compare to the environment created when it's time to put on the pads. Everything just seems a little more alive when full gear is donned and players are finally able to hit somebody.

Conditioning levels will certainly be tested when full pads are added today. A player may be all-state in shorts and T-shirts, but wind up being a statue on the sidelines when the hitting commences.

"Some guys can look so good in the spring and you have them slotted high on the depth chart. Then they put pads on and all of the sudden they don't play nearly as good," said Harmony's Tim Russell, who enters his 10th season with the Eagles.

"On the reverse of that, some guys take to contact real well and perform better in pads. You learn a lot more about your depth when you put on the pads. It's the first real mile marker in the season and we're real excited about it."

Russell likes to jump right in on contact after using the first four days to teach, as he explains.

"We got to find out as quick as we can if a guy can play or not. We'll probably actually start off with some old school hitting drills like Oklahoma just to shake the cobwebs off."

Sabine's Rex Sharp begins his first year as head coach at the school and has been busy installing a new offense and defense.

"Things have gone really well. With the changes we're doing on both sides of the ball, the kids have adapted well," said Sharp. "We put in as much as we could get in during the spring. They showed up and the memory bank was good."

With the installation of an entirely new offense and defense with fresh terminology, Sharp doesn't expect a significantly different visual when helmets and shoulder pads are worn.

"We treat the first day in pads as a regular day. We don't make it any bigger than what it is," Sharp explains. "A lot of people may want to line up and bust heads and all that. But we got an urgency about us. There's a whole lot of teaching. We'll get after it, but I don't make too much of the first day in pads."

Second-year New Diana coach Robbie Coplin has seen marked improvement in his kids from this time a year ago.

"We're not having to teach everything from square one. Up until last year, they had never even been in a spread offense. Just knowing where to go and what to do has made a huge difference," said Coplin, who worked previously on the staff at Lake Travis.

"It's been real refreshing to work on the technical part of football, instead of trying to get people lined up to go the right spot. We are looking forward to going full contact."

Spring Hill's Kelly Mercer broke the monotony of four days in shorts and T-shirts by piping music into the speakers at Panther Stadium.

The third-year coach can't wait for full contact to start.

"Third or fourth day, the kids are sore and it gets to be a grind," Mercer said. "I told them if we had three good days I'd let them play a little something."

Mercer knows he doesn't have to play DJ for his team today when the pad-popping gets started.

"Everybody is ready for pads. Things have gone well to this point. The retention level is there. That may be a cliche, but we're retaining knowledge from being in a system now three years," Mercer offered.

"It's all good to watch stuff on air under a controlled situation. But the game changes when you start having to hit people. It's a whole different deal."

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