High school athletes ease into first day of practice

High school athletes ease into first day of practice

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High school athletes ease into first day of practice

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The first day of football practice in the Ozarks usually evokes images of two-a-days, Oklahoma drills and oppressive August heat.

But there was none of that Monday as teams across the state opened the three-week stretch until the Aug. 30 opening of another football season.

New restrictions from the Missouri State High School Activities Association, which were enacted by voting from the schools, call for a 16-day acclimatization period this year as practices open.

Teams are not permitted to practice in shoulder pads until Wednesday and full-contact practices are now allowed until Saturday.

“It just makes it difficult to practice, and that’s the bottom line,” said Hillcrest coach John Beckham after running his team through a three-hour afternoon session with helmets, shorts and no pads. “But we all want the same thing. We all want what’s best for the kids.”

And so the 2013 season got under way, and without extreme temperatures. In fact, temperatures are not expected to be anywhere near 90 degrees all week.

New coaches, including Wes Beachler in Republic and Lance Parnell in Cassville, are trying to put their stamp on programs, while teams such as Ozark, Lamar and Webb City are trying to duplicate last season’s success.

For now, three hours of practice are allowed each day, in addition to the option of a one-hour “walk through.”

The changes were recommended by the MSHSAA two years ago and required for the first time this year. Double sessions are not allowed until next week, although with school starting this week in many districts, finding time for two-a-days will become tough.

Beckham said he doesn’t believe practices will become much tougher next week when full contact begins.

“The kids can only do so much,” Beckham said. “So it’s not like we can make it up for it next week, and make up for what we missed.”

Springfield Public Schools was coming off a state-mandated dead period Monday, which the district has chosen to be the week leading up to the open of fall practices.

Beckham said the district should consider revisiting the selection of the week with the acclimatization period already forcing coaches to undergo an abbreviated preseason.

At Hillcrest, the Hornets graduated a Football Bowl Subdivision prospect for the second straight season, as quarterback Jonah Hill is now a tight end at Arkansas State.

The senior class already has a D-I commitment from Darnell Green-Beckham, who will join his older brother, Dorial, a highly touted wide receiver entering his sophomore season at Missouri.

Green-Beckham, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011, has undergone treatment ever since. However, he is about a month away from his final treatment.

“I’ve been feeling pretty good and getting back in shape,” Green-Beckham said. “Five more weeks and I’m all done. Then, I can get back in my normal shape and gain some weight. I feel a lot stronger than I was a couple years ago. And I’m getting back to my normal speed.”

Fellow seniors C.J. Hubbard, Juwan Johnson and Matt Rush could join Green-Beckham next season in the college ranks.

Hubbard is a defensive lineman, and Johnson will play both running back and wide receiver.

Like Hill last year, Rush is transitioning to quarterback for his final high school season.

“I kind of figured after last year I’d be taking over that role,” said Rush, who attended camps at Tulsa, Arkansas State and Missouri this summer, and has a scholarship offer from Missouri State. “I think it’s helping me get to know every position on the field.”

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