Area teams logging valuable hours at workouts
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 4, 2011 1:47 PM
Scrimmages are getting closer.
Coaches are beginning to pencil in starters on offense and defense.
All high school football teams in the News-Argus readership area started working out in shoulder pads Tuesday. Live, full-body contact can begin either Friday or Saturday once each team has completed the five practices required by the N.C. High School Athletic Association.
Nearly 40 players are suited up for North Duplin this season. The Rebels finished with 27 at the end of last fall, so the extra players are a welcome sight for head coach Hugh Martin and his staff.
"It makes it different out there for us, but it's a good difference," said Martin. "They've all had an outstanding attitude. The work ethic has been great. We have some young ones who have never played football. They're listening well and trying to pick up what we're teaching them.
"We're looking forward to Friday and Saturday when we have a little contact. We'll see what we have then."
A little farther south in Duplin County, perennial Tri-County 1-A Conference power James Kenan had 90-plus players -- varsity and junior varsity combined -- report the first day of practice last Saturday.
The Tigers finished 7-6 last season and 16 seniors graduated, including several skill players. NCPreps.com has projected Kenan to finish second in league play behind archrival and two-time defending small-school 1-A state champion Wallace-Rose Hill.
Playing second fiddle is getting a little old for Ken Avent Jr.'s squad.
"When one of us does well, the other always wants to do well," said Avent Jr. of one of the state's top prep gridiron rivalries. "They really want to be good and they're not just talking it, but bringing it (in practice). Overall, their attitude has been great.
"We'll probably take some lumps, but as long as we get better, I think we'll be all right by the end of the year."
Calvin Sutton continues to work on changing the culture at his alma mater. North Lenoir finished winless on the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference season in 2010 and lost all-everything player Maurice Morgan to graduation.
Morgan is now at N.C. State.
More than 60 players have reported to camp daily in LaGrange, leaving Sutton optimistic that just maybe they're hoping to change the reputation of recent teams.
"I am happy with those numbers," said Sutton of the turnout. "The one thing that has pleased me about the group is their effort. They're two years into the system and it's becoming second nature to them. That has made it fun for me to see them take ownership of it and execute what we're trying to do.
"I'm looking for several guys to have some 'coming out' parties this year."
Oppressive heat continues to blanket the southeast.
Not only are coaches trying to practice when the heat index and humidity are low, they're taking the necessary precautions to avoid heat exhaustion. Two 16-year-old players died Tuesday in Georgia.
Forecasts call for temperatures in the upper 90s with heat indexes hovering around triple digits for the remainder of this week.
"We always schedule a lot of breaks early in the practice when it is the hottest," said Martin. "We have water-on-demand any time a player wants it and our trainers do a great job getting water to the players at stations. We're using an ice tub filled with towels to help cool down bodies.
"(Tuesday) night was the first night we could have shoulder pads and a few struggled a little bit. We're trying to gradually build that up with the heat as intense as it's been."
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