07/30/11 — Prep football practice kicks off

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Prep football practice kicks off

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 30, 2011 11:23 PM

It's finally here.

Teams in the News-Argus readership area and statewide kicked off their respective 2011 high school football seasons on a sunny, humid Saturday morning.

Few seemed to be affected by temperatures that eventually surpassed the 100-degree mark later in the day. Coaches scheduled numerous water breaks into their opening-day plans to keep players hydrated, and prevent heat exhaustion.

Defending Eastern Carolina 3-A co-champion Eastern Wayne, Charles B. Aycock, Southern Wayne, North Duplin and Spring Creek practiced. Rosewood, Princeton, two-time defending Carolina 1-A champ Goldsboro and Greene Central will each conduct their first practice session either Monday morning or evening.

Several new faces showed up at Spring Creek. Third-year Gators head coach Aaron Sanders said 27 players reported for opening day, while a few missed the initial practice due to various reasons.

"We've got a lot of young kids out, and for some of them it was their first experience with varsity football," said Sanders. "We've got some guys going into leadership roles, and trying to adapt to that. What pleased me the most about today was those kids who have been putting in a lot of offseason work were ready to go, and looked great in their assignments.

"But, there will be a lot of teaching going on this first week."

Sanders, as well as every head coach, is making sure his staff and athletic trainers understand the importance of monitoring practices during the current heat wave. Heat tolerance and the ability to effectively exercise in extreme conditions is imperative to making sure each practice runs smoothly.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association sent a conditioning calendar to each school during the summer. Coaches can follow either option "A" or option "B" during the first five days.

Option A is a three-hour practice that includes "flex" time.

Option B is a three-hour practice, followed by a mandatory three-hour cool-down period and then a subsequent one-hour walk-through session.

Also, during this same period, players are permitted to wear just helmets, T-shirts and cleats for the first two days. Shoulder pads may be added the third day and live, full-body contact is not permissible until the sixth day.

On the sixth day, coaches are allowed to employ the option "C" practice implemented by the Association. Teams may conduct two-a-day sessions that cannot exceed five total hours, and must schedule a mandatory three-hour, cool-down period.

"We did really well (with the heat)," said Southern Wayne assistant coach Jeremy Joyner. "We had practice organized and gave them plenty of water breaks. We broke our sections down to help with that. We had a few guys who got a little hot, and that's probably just them being outside."

Joyner said 35 players reported and another 10 missed practice.

"We got a lot of stuff in, got a lot of reps and for the first day of practice, it went really well," said Joyner. "We covered a lot of stuff offensively and defensively. We'll come back on Monday, work hard and just try to get better each day."