With the helmets finally going on, the two-week countdown to the opening of the 2014 season has begun for the area’s high school football teams.
Opening night for most of the area’s teams is Aug. 29, which will feature a full slate of games in Northern Nevada, along with a number of intriguing games scheduled against out-of-state opponents. Reed will open six days earlier, with the Raiders playing in the annual Sollenberger Classic series at Bishop Gorman.
High school football practice schedules in Nevada are no longer a case of “pick a date and get started.” Beginning last year, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association instituted a more regimented schedule designed to ease players into a series of more strenuous levels of effort during the heat of August.
This season’s “heat acclimatization” period began last Saturday and ended Wednesday. During that time, teams were limited to a single practice a day with no protective equipment. Beginning Thursday and continuing through Saturday, players can wear helmets and make contact with blocking sleds, tackling dummies and other equipment.
Monday is the day many area players and coaches have circled on their calendars. The limits will be removed that day, with full-contact practices allowed and all protective gear worn.
A number of area coaches, such as Reed’s Ernie Howren, Carson’s Blair Roman and Douglas’ Ernie Monfiletto, noted that the more-regimented schedule represents a balancing act between many aspects of player safety. On one hand, it’s wise to be cautious of what can often be brutally hot conditions throughout the state in August; on the other hand, more time in full gear before facing off against another team might be beneficial, too.
But that can be a trade-off, as well, as fewer full-contact practices could be a positive factor in reducing the chance of injuries, particularly to the head.
“Because our summer programs (at the Division I level) are so well-run, these kids are ready at a sooner time to probably get the pads on than they are allowed to,” Roman said. “But, obviously there needs to be a major concern about how much you’re hitting, and (with) the health of the kids being the top priority. You just find other ways to teach.”
The situation is different at Reed, which earlier this year was invited to play in the Sollenberger Classic, a series of two games matching top teams from Nevada and Arizona. The Raiders were allowed to begin varsity-only practices 11 days early to match the practice schedule of Mountain Pointe (Ariz.), their Aug. 23 opponent.
“The talk has been about Mountain Pointe, because obviously that’s our first game,” Howren said. “But camp has really just been about doing everything we can to focus on us and making sure that we have an understanding of our schemes and are getting up to game speed.”
For the NIAA’s other five fall sports, practices can begin Saturday. The first day of fall sports competition across the state is Aug. 28.
SATURDAY: First day of practice for fall sports (football practice began Aug. 9)
MONDAY: First day of full-contact football practice
AUG. 23: Football scrimmages
AUG. 23: Reed vs. Mountain Pointe (Ariz.) at Las Vegas
AUG. 28: First day for fall sports contests
AUG. 29-30: Opening games for most area football teams