High school football players put on the helmets and full pads for the first time Monday to welcome the first official day of practice. In Rutherford County, Riverdale was one of the first to begin practice, getting started before 7 a.m.
Here is a first-person account:
6 a.m.: The alarm goes off and the first practice is less than an hour from starting. The good thing? I’m not participating and hit the snooze for a few more minutes of sleep.
6:13 a.m.: OK. It’s time to get up, take a quick shower and head out the door. First practice of the day will start at Riverdale.
6:51 a.m.: A heavy dew is visible on the Riverdale football practice field. Teammates Kantrell Green, Austin Bryant and Brandon Bea walk through the parking lot together as they prepare to start practice. Bryant is a returning starter at running back. Bea is a transfer from Vancouver, Wash., and will be the starting quarterback.
6:52 a.m.: Linebackers coach Bobby Wells is already at the far end of the practice field working with players on footwork skills. Wells, who has been the team’s defensive coordinator since 2009, has given that responsibility to Will Kriesky.
7:11 a.m.: Kriesky isn’t happy with the effort after a drill. “Do not walk off this field. Jog off this field. Do not walk on this field.”
7:16 a.m.: Riverdale assistant Nate Paris is working on open field tackle drills. “Drop your hips, not your eyes,” said Paris as a safety tip to players. “Protect your head.”
7:56 a.m.: “Make some good habits today,” Stewarts Creek assistant David Barger shouts to receivers as they catch passes from an assistant. Stewarts Creek is coming off a 2-8 season, but has dropped down from 6A to 5A.
8:03 a.m.: Stewarts Creek assistant Jason Scharsch pulls a player aside and goes over proper stance and how he should be running to the play. “It’s those little things,” Scharsch said.
8:05 a.m.: “Well lookey there,” Scharsch said to a player after he knocked an opponent to the ground with a big hit.
8:34 a.m.: Coach David Martin has the team working on an inside drill, using a couple lineman, quarterback and running back on defense and the same number on defense. They have four downs to get to the first-down marker.
9:07 a.m.: Next to Highway 99 in Eagleville, behind the school’s baseball diamond, the Eagles are about 30 minutes into practice. Defensive coordinator Kent Pippenger works with his linebackers and safeties during a defensive pass skeleton drill as coach Steve Carson watches on behind the offense.
9:11 a.m.: Pippenger pulls a player over to get his feet set. “You all have to get to there,” Pippenger said, pointing to a spot on the field.
9:16 a.m.: Assistant coach Tom Fiveash, who once was an assistant at MTSU, works by himself with the offensive and defensive lines. Fiveash has been coaching football for about 40 of the past 50 years. He sits in a golf cart as his line gets a water break and asks how good MTSU will be this fall.
9:49 a.m.: It’s the last 10 minutes of the first of two Blackman High practices. “We don’t know how to huddle,” coach David Watson yells as loud music is played beside them. Watson later said the practice was a good one, but it tailed off as the heat got to his team.
9:51 a.m.: “Finish the play,” Watson yells. “I want it done the right way.”
10:02 a.m.: Players begin to walk off the practice field at Blackman. They will go to the fieldhouse to cool off. There they will get a sandwich, drink and some fruit before the team returns to the field in shorts, shirts and helmets for a second practice later in the afternoon.
10:29 a.m.: MTCS’ skill players are working on pass skeleton as second-year coach Fred Shambaugh observes from near midfield. “Get a pick,” assistant Brooks Smith barks at the defense. A defender promptly complies. Smith then runs back to the end zone with the player to celebrate the last play before special teams.
10:32 a.m.: Former MTSU football player Cam Robinson works with the offensive and defensive line along with assistant Owen Barker. Robinson led MTSU in tackles in 2009 when the Blue Raiders went to the New Orleans Bowl. He is new to the Cougars’ staff this year.
10:34 a.m.: The Cougars’ linemen break for water. “We’re all we got. We’re all we need,” the Cougars’ linemen say as they break the huddle. Numbers overall are up for MTCS this year. The Cougars have around 46 players this season after playing with 30 the year prior.
10:58 a.m.: Workers are putting up metal beams at the new Oakland softball indoor hitting facility as the Patriots’ football team wraps up practice with running. The varsity has already taken a break and is relaxing in the school’s annex and indoor facility. Some players are just relaxing before the next practice in shorts and T-shirts begins. Others are running around the darkened facility.
11:08 a.m.: Oakland’s players begin to stretch out for the next practice. Defensive tackle Ty Nix jumps around with teammates as they finish warming up for the next practice.
11:18 a.m.: Former Oakland all-state linebacker Kevin Prather stands on the sideline as Oakland begins special teams work. He’ll be leaving next week for UT-Martin.
5:36 p.m.: Siegel is practicing in shorts, jerseys and helmets after practicing in full pads earlier in the day. The Stars are holding two-a-days this week.
5:47 p.m.: “You took the candy,” Siegel coach Greg Wyant tells a defensive back who went after a teammate on an out pattern during defensive pass skeleton work, leaving part of the field open.
5:56 p.m.: Siegel senior Jordan Middleton throws deep to a teammate for a big gain. Middleton is entering his second year as a starter.
6:03 p.m.: Defensive lineman Dalton Frantz picks off Middleton’s pass that had been deflected in the air.
6:04 p.m.: Siegel’s Chase Witherow goes to the ground with cramps in both legs. A teammate begins to stretch him out until a trainer can arrive.
6:40 p.m.: La Vergne junior Maleik Gray gets the handoff from teammate Drew Howard, dances and cuts upfield. Gray is a highly-touted college prospect at linebacker.
6:45 p.m.: La Vergne begins special teams drills. Austin Garcia, a soccer player, is working out at kicker.
6:47 p.m.: La Vergne coach Stanton Stevens stops practice to go over proper spacing with his kickoff team.
7:35 p.m.: Smyrna quarterback John Turner is on the sideline throwing into netting as new QB coach Alex Robins watches. Robins, who once coached quarterbacks at MTSU, coached Sonny Gray at the same position when he was quarterback.
7:36 p.m.: Smyrna assistant Gabe Villarreal is filling in as a scout team quarterback. He runs to his right, then to his left toward the sidelines where Smyrna players and spectators scramble.
Contact Tom Kreager at 615-278-5168 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Kreager.