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Getting back to work
Schools hold first official day of practice
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Desmond Brinson, far left, braces himself as teammate Chris Reese comes off the line as offensive line coach Justin Griffith, right, conducts drills as Statesboro High gets football season underway with their first full practice Wednesday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff


Wednesday afternoon marked the first official day of organized football practice for high schools across Georgia, though it was tough to tell by looking at fields around Bulloch County.

New heat precautions enacted by the Georgia High School Association delayed full outdoor activities from taking place until later in the afternoon, but the spirit of the day still remained as prep football season is officially here.

At Statesboro High, it was business as usual. Coming off of region championships in each of the past two seasons, the Blue Devils have some new faces — both on their roster and in their new region — to get used to, but are keeping the same mentality that has proven effective over the last few years.

"Last year, we had a group of guys that were very motivated and very dedicated to being better," SHS coach Steve Pennington said. "It pleases me to say that I’ve seen even more dedication and effort from this next rising class. All summer long, we’ve had great turnout at voluntary workouts and I’ve seen our guys make great strides. Today is just another step forward."

But it was a step that had to be delayed until things cooled off a bit.

This season, the GHSA has mandated the use of wet bulb temperature readings for practices and has issued a strict set of limitations that must be taken at practices according to the temperature reading. Statesboro’s practice, which was originally scheduled for 5:30 p.m., was delayed by about half an hour until it was deemed safe to practice outdoors. Even then, the intense heat and humidity limited practice to just two hours.

In the past, some schools have opted to arrive at the field early or stay late in an effort to beat the heat. Last season, Screven County even had its team sleep in the gym in order to begin practice just after dawn. However, such drastic options won’t be available for Bulloch County teams as school begins next week and the only available practice times will be during the hottest hours of the afternoon.

Never one to miss a coachable moment, Pennington is taking the heat and the possibility of limited practice time in stride.

"It’s something we’re prepared for and something that we’ll deal with," Pennington said. "We’re going to have to adapt to things throughout the year. Right now, our goal is to be in mid-season form by that first game. The heat might dictate that we have to alter some practices, but we’re just going to have to find a way to achieve our goals, regardless of the situation."

The same attitude prevails at Southeast Bulloch. The blistering heat is nothing new to local coaching staffs and scheduling in possible heat delays is just as common as blocking out time to practice special teams.

"We’re looking forward to getting things implemented, but the safety of our players comes first," SEB athletic director and defensive coordinator Jack Webb said. "We’ll monitor everything to keep everyone safe, but we’ll also get down to business and start getting things in order for the season."

Portal faces even more of a challenge as the already grueling preseason practice schedule is worsened not only by the heat, but by roster size. As one of the smallest schools in GHSA to field a football team, the Panthers will need to utilize their preseason practice time to get ready to play two-way football each Friday night.

"(Wednesday) is where things officially start, but the real success of this season for us and for other teams has been building since the end of last season," Portal coach David NeSmith said. "We’ve been working hard in the weight room since before school let out. The first official day of practice is just going to be another day in our books where we can go out and make ourselves better."

August 1 marks the first day that teams will be allowed to practice in full pads. From there, most schools will have five full weeks of practice before the first full slate of regular season games on August 31.


Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.