07/29/11 — Are you ready for some football?

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Are you ready for some football?

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 29, 2011 1:47 PM

The annual summer ritual is close at hand.

Players will lace up their cleats, buckle their chin straps and wait for sound from the coach's shrill whistle to pierce the humid, morning air. Several teams in the News-Argus readership area kick off their respective seasons Saturday at Charles B. Aycock, Eastern Wayne, North Duplin, Spring Creek and Southern Wayne.

"It's the best day of the year, better than Christmas," said Spring Creek head coach Aaron Sanders.

Two-time defending Carolina 1-A Conference champion Goldsboro, Rosewood, Princeton and Greene Central will start practice either Monday morning or evening.

"We've had a good summer and are excited about where we are right now," said Greene Central head coach Ken Grantham. "We don't have an early scrimmage, so we are starting practice on Monday."

Coaches are permitted to conduct either one three-hour practice or a three-hour practice with a mandatory cool-down period, followed by a one-hour walk-through session during the first five days. Players are not allowed to wear shoulder pads until the third practice and full contact is permissible on the sixth day.

Also on day six, coaches can conduct two-a-day sessions that may last no longer than 5 total hours.

"It's something that the association implemented to make it a safe environment to practice in, and it does put some restrictions on the coaches. But it will make practice safer," said Sanders.

Forecasts predict 100-plus degree weather with high humidity and an oppressive heat index Saturday. Temperatures and heat indexes are expected to hover in the mid-90s throughout the week.

Athletic trainers and coaches must guard against possible heat stroke regardless the time of day the teams practice. Players who have heat-related, at-risk pathologies should make their situations known to the school.

"It is definitely very hot out there right now," said Sanders. "We have to definitely consider water breaks and give them plenty of time (to rest) between practices. Of course, they are also responsible for keeping themselves hydrated when they're not at practice."