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Gators back on the gridiron
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The Georgia High School Association laid out strict guidelines to let all schools know the minimum amount of restrictions that would be required in order for schools to return to conditioning. 

Covid-19 guidelines were not given to GISA schools, who were rather told to use their best judgement in returning to any kind of play or practice. According to Bulloch Academy athletic director Pat Collins the GISA holds no governance over their member schools in the summer, except in regard to when they can wear helmets, and when they can transition to pads and contact.

“The GISA actually passed a rule on June 4th that teams can attend helmet and shoulder pad only camps,” Collins said. “In keeping with the GISA bylaws there is no governance over schools other than those restrictions, so schools in the GISA have to determine their own path with restrictions in regards to Covid-19.”

“The way we developed our policy at Bulloch Academy was following the governors orders, and the definitions as we understood them,” Collins said. “The GHSA plan seemed to match what the governor and the CDC said, so we simply followed the GHSA plan.”

The restrictions pretty much limit everything to conditioning, weight lifting and allow for short periods of teaching. For the teams with returning coaching staffs the transition is a bit frustrating, but not too far from where they would be at this time. For first year Bulloch Academy head coach Steve Pennington, who brings in plenty of new coaches, it's an even tougher task as he barely knows the names of a lot of his players.

“It most definitely has given us some challenges, not problems, but challenges,” Pennington said. “I came in, and was just starting to learn who we had on the team, and all of a sudden school was closed.”

“We have tried our best to stay in contact with the players,” Pennington said. “This week is really the first time I have really gotten to talk with them, and it’s been in small groups rather than a full team, which is another obstacle.”

Unlike many of the area public schools, the Gators have decided to work exclusively outdoors, and are doing their lifting and conditioning in more of a crossfit style, as opposed to lifting weights in the gym.

“We have each player with a weight plate of between 25 and 45 pounds,” Pennington said. “They each have their own mat which is spaced out on the field, and on their mat they will do exercises with their weight that simulate squats and bench press drills we traditionally do in the weight room.”

“We feel this is a safe way to train, but it is also a great way to get acclimated to the heat,” Pennington said. “We spend the beginning of the practice doing our crossfit training, and then we are running.”

Pennington and his staff are almost forced to have to run the same offense and defense as the Gators did last season, due to the restrictions of not being able to work as a team, or without equipment for the foreseeable future.

“I felt like what they did on offense and defense were pretty successful last season,” Pennington said. “I have talked to some of the former coaches like Coach Shaver about how things were run, and I feel we have a pretty good grasp on that. We will probably add a few things when some restrictions are lifted, but right now it’s all about conditioning, and getting to know the players better.”

Pennington retained defensive line coach Brian Scott, and wide receivers, and special teams coach J.P. Padilla. New to the staff are offensive coordinator Andy Woodard — who comes to Bulloch Academy from Aquinas in Augusta — as well as offensive line coach Matt Moore, and linebackers coach Anthony Gore who last year was named as the Big South defensive player of the year at Kennesaw State University.