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Prep football counting down the days

    Believe it or not, kick-off to the 2010 football season is just over a month away.
    With classes not set to resume until next week, it may seem like there isn’t enough time to prepare, but all of the schools in Bulloch County have been putting in long hours over the summer leading up to the opening of fall practice.
    Two schools that have been especially interested in summer workouts are Portal and Southeast Bulloch.
    With new coaching staffs set to embark on their first season, time is of the essence in getting everyone familiar with each other and on the same page before the first game of the season.
    “I feel that we’ve had a pretty good summer,” said Portal coach Cherard Freeman. “Our kids have bought into the weight program and our numbers have been good. Each Wednesday in the summer has been our ‘Family Day’ where we’ve done team-related activities to get the players and coaches working together.”
    Down the road in Brooklet, the story is similar for the Yellow Jackets, who are looking to get back on the right path with new head coach Pat Collins.
    There was plenty of excitement for the new coaching regime during spring practice, and that has carried over to a summer full of hard work in the weight room that should pay off in the fall.
    One of the improvements for SEB that was evident in the spring was the number of players suited up. After a number of years where participation and team depth has been an issue, the Jackets hope to go into this season fully loaded. In a region that is stacked with talent, the Jackets hope to serve as a very unwelcome surprise for teams that have had their way with SEB in the past few years.
    At Statesboro, the Blue Devils have been hard at work.
    Not forgotten is the uncharacteristic early departure from the 2009 postseason, and Statesboro wants to return to its usual deep runs into the playoffs.
    “I would say that we have had a very productive summer,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “We broke our training down to two phases. Before the dead week on July 4, we worked on strength and conditioning. Since then, we’ve been preparing for our routine when it’s time to put the pads on.”
    Important to Statesboro’s success this season will be the return of some key starters following a year in which 17 players were new to a starting role.”
    “I’ve been pleased with the effort,” said Pennington. “Our older guys have shown their desire and readiness to be leaders and our incoming freshmen have shown the commitment that is necessary to succeed.”
    As the most successful team in the area last season, Bulloch Academy – which advanced to the state quarterfinals – has been working hard to sustain its level of excellence.
    “I was happy with our commitment throughout the summer,” said BA coach Clint Morgan. We’re also excited about our numbers. We have 43 kids on the roster after having around 20 for the past five or six years, and we also have some key players returning from last year that should produce.”
    The biggest challenge facing this year’s Gator squad comes from being bumped up to the AAA classification of the Georgia Independent School Association. Bulloch will now face competition from larger schools and knows that it is in for a year full of tough matchups, but the Gators are ready to take on all comers.
    “We know it will be a big challenge, but we’re ready,” said Morgan. “When you raise the bar of competition, you hope that the kids will raise their effort. That’s what we’ve seen this summer and now we’ll take that with us when we start in pads.”
    Summer training across the state will come to an end this week as teams will be allowed to strap on the helmets and pads next week.
    According to Georgia High School Association rules, full pads may only be worn three times – and not on more than two consecutive days – during the first week. After that schools will be able to dictate their own schedules throughout the rest of the season. As a member of the GISA, Bulloch Academy is free to practice in full pads at any time starting August 2.
    When practices begin next Monday, the countdown will stand at just 24 days until Bulloch Academy hosts David Emmanuel Academy in the first game of the 2010 season.

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.