The weather will no longer impact Leon High’s daily football schedule.
The Lions’ Cox-Sauls Field House now features a 5,500-square-foot turf room that is large enough for the team to practice when Mother Nature is not cooperative.
“To get better in our sport, you have to practice,” Leon first-year coach Tiim Cokely said.
“And now we don’t have to cancel practice. We can still do enough inside if the weather gets bad.”
The recent renovation to the field house, which was the school’s old gymnasium and built in 1947, cost $17,900. The bill was paid through Leon’s facilities fund.
The field house still includes a locker room, weight room and school’s Hall of Fame.
But it’s the new, shiny green sports turf, stretched over 30 yards, that has allowed the Lions to practice selected drills indoors when needed.
The turf room is also available for other school sports and activities.
Leon Athletic Director Mark Feely said the space was needed, especially since Leon’s lower parking lots and athletic fields are prone to flooding during persistent rain.
The football team also provided the brawn when it came to moving the rubberized sports turf and other supplies inside from the parking lot.
Future upgrades include a fresh coat of paint, wall padding, wall murals and office space on the second floor, which is now being utilized for storage.
“It’s great that we can come inside to get our work done if we can’t go outside because of the rain,” senior receiver Demario Scott said.
“Everyone was involved in helping get the turf down, too. We all worked in shifts. It has made the team closer. With our new staff and players, we are determined to win.”
Under FHSAA rules, today marks the first day that prep teams can begin contact drills and wear full pads.
North Florida Christian coach Robert Craft and the Eagles won’t waste any time. NFC planned to scrimmage this morning.
“This year we have more depth than we’ve ever had,” Craft said.
“We have a lot of competition at some positions and guys need a scrimmage to allow us to evaluate them a little more. I am as pleased with the first week of practice as I ever have been.”
Cokely, entering his first season with the Lions, has been impressed with his team’s enthusiasm, too. But he’s excited to see how players react with the start of full-contact drills.
“Once we start hitting, the game changes,” Cokely said.
“Some guys who may have been behind others can get ahead because they get guys on the ground. They are willing to hit. This is a tough, aggressive sport. We have to be physical.”
After struggling in recent seasons, Leon senior receiver C.P. Hall says the Lions are determined to improve.
“This season is going to be different in how we approach practice and games,” Hall said. “We want to get out there (today) and execute our plays and be tough.”