CATEGORY: FOL High School Football

AUTHOR: WAYNE

HED:Coaches and players prepare for Aug. 28 start dates

By Wayne Clements

Daily Journal

Players and coaches spend long, hot summer days looking forward to the start of fall football practice. After 13 days of running and sweating under those same summer skies, it's about to get old.

This is hump week for high school football teams that open the season Aug. 29. Only a few more days of pounding on teammates remain before they get to try to pound on somebody new.

It can't get here soon enough for some.

"It's a motivation thing. We're kind of down-gearing," Biggersville coach Matt Smith said. "The first week, they're excited to get started. The second week they're excited to hit somebody. Now it's kind of drudgery.

"We're having to stay on them and push them a little more."

Oxford head coach Robert Youngblood, in the middle of his 37th fall practice, says getting the best out of his charges is tough this week.

"It's hard to stay really focused," Youngblood said. "They're tired, you're trying to get them in shape and there's nothing for them to look forward to. If we can fight through this week, then we'll have game week."

Boredom breeds carelessness, which can translate into injuries on the football field. More players are hurt going half speed than all-out, and it's hard to make teen-agers go all-out for three straight weeks.

"This is my 24th August, and I'm worried just like the first one. When do you start cutting back, how many more days do you really get after it, contact-wise?" Baldwyn coach Larry Gann said. "We're still looking for some players, so we're having to go full speed whether we want to or not. I really don't like to, because I figure the law of averages will catch up to you."

The law's already caught Biggersville. The Lions have lost quarterback Dustin Moore and offensive lineman P.J. Steward after a practice mishap.

"(Moore) took the snap and a lineman (Steward) stepped back on his foot and broke his ankle," Smith said. "We hadn't even put on pads yet. Things were going fairly decent."

Moore's ankle is expected to take six to eight weeks to heal. Steward, who thought he'd injured a back muscle on the play, may be out longer after being diagnosed with a chipped vertebra.

Setting the right pace is important, Ripley coach Jamie Mitchell said. "This is the toughest week, without a doubt," he said. "Coaches are talking about playing in a week and a half, and the kids are thinking, 'My God, another week and a half of this.'

"We want to be at full speed a week from Friday, not this Friday. We spent the first two weeks thinking about Ripley. Now it's time to get into game week and start thinking about Amory."

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