The late, and early, show - Saints kick off season with Midnight Madness practice
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 31, 2006 2:06 PM
DUDLEY -- A few players, dressed in bright red tear-away jerseys and shorts, leaned on the fence and glanced at the lush, green, dew-covered football field from time to time.
Others ambled from the locker room and snapped their chinstraps on their helmets while their cleats scraped the dust-covered sidewalk.
Once the whistle blew, they filed -- one-by-one -- onto the bleachers and went through some pre-practice paperwork. As the instructions ended and veteran coach Bob Warren explained the night's agenda, they eagerly put on their helmets and headed toward the gate.
With assistant coach Gerald Whisenhunt in the lead, the players jogged onto the field and lined up in four rows. Whisenhunt called for jumping jacks and the players began counting.
And thus, another Midnight Madness practice -- the seventh in Warren's tenure -- began early Monday morning under starry skies and slightly-humid temperatures on the Southern Wayne campus. The remaining county teams kick off their respective 2006 preseasons later this afternoon or evening.
Thirty-four prospective players donned helmets, T-shirts and shorts for the Saints' first official practice of the season. Including among the group were returning quarterback Michael Holland and running back Anthony Council, who emerged the area rushing champion last fall.
Holland missed 12 contests after breaking his left arm in a preseason jamboree at Southern Vance. He made a second-half appearance in Southern Wayne's second-round playoff loss at Northeast Guilford last November.
"I've been waiting for this day since I broke my arm last year," said a grinning Holland, who twirled a football while he waited for practice to start. "I'm real excited to be back out here. I'm glad football season is here; excited to get going and start playing again.
"We have a great running back and we're all looking forward to having a great season."
Council rambled for 2,129 yards and a county-leading 28 touchdowns in 13 outings.
Southern Wayne compiled an 8-5 worksheet in 2005 and ended up third in the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference. The Saints also seized their first-ever playoff victory in school history.
"I thought it went really well," said Warren, who has graduated 28 seniors over the past two years. "A good crisp practice; got everything in we wanted to get in. The kids had a good time and we're looking forward to making good progress.
"We've got some good kids out here to work with."
Warren said the Saints return just one starter on defense and six on offense.
Teams may conduct one two-hour practice per day the first six days of conditioning required by the N.C. High School Athletic Association. Body-to-body contact, including pads, can begin on the seventh day and is allowed during one session on any given day.
A second practice can be conducted once the required six days expire, but suitable dress -- states the NCHSAA -- constitutes just helmets, shoulder pads, T-shirts, shorts and football shoes.
The NCHSAA has also reminded coaches to factor in the heat when scheduling practices. Plenty of water breaks are recommended and precautions should be taken to prevent heat-related problems.
A player must participate in nine practices, including three of which must be in pads and include body-to-body contact, before participating in a football contest or scrimmage against outside competition.
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