The time has finally arrived.
When high school football players finally get the chance to buckle their chinstraps and coaches can get down to business.
Today marks the first day football teams in Mississippi can officially begin practicing. Teams are permitted to wear helmets starting today, while players can begin wearing pads on the fourth day of practice. And the sixth day of practice is when players are allowed to dress out in full gear.
Most teams will play their first game of the season on Aug. 17. Presbyterian Christian School (a member of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools) is the lone football team in the area that will kick its season off earlier, when the Bobcats open their schedule on Aug. 16.
This gives most high schools less than three weeks between their first practice and their first game. As a result, coaches have had to put more emphasis on participation in summer conditioning programs.
“You can’t put a kid out there after three weeks of practice and expect them to go four quarters if they haven’t gone full speed all summer,” Sumrall head coach Shannon White said. “The summers for our kids are turning into athletic participation summers.”
Petal’s Marcus Boyles, who is in his first season as the Panthers’ head coach, said the first thing on his agenda today is working on special teams.
“We’re going to hit that hard (today),” Boyles said. “We didn’t do much of that in the spring, so we’re going to start working on that right away.”
PCS head coach Joey Hawkins said his main concern as his team begins practice is his offensive and defensive lines. But he said he’s got the luxury of having a talented stable of returning skill players that he can devote enough time in the early practices to getting his lineman up to speed.
“That’s probably our biggest concern going into practice,” Hawkins said. “We’ve got to get our offensive and defensive lines to feel comfortable. That’s the main thing we’re going to do to begin with.”
Hawkins said his team will practice twice a day today and Tuesday, before attending a football camp at Pearl River Community College on Wednesday and Thursday.
White will also hold two practices a day Monday-Wednesday, focusing on schemes in the morning session and conditioning in the afternoon. Beginning on Thursday, White said his team will only practice once a day.
Boyles said he’s satisfied with the progress his team made over the course of the summer conditioning program.
“I think we’re kind of where we need to be,” he said. “We’re not in game shape yet. We couldn’t go out and play 48 minutes of football, which is why the tempo at practices have got to be really good.
“I’m one of those guys that believes we’ll get in shape by practicing fast and practicing hard.”