If you needed a wake up call that high school football season is rapidly approaching, Massaponax head coach Eric Ludden had you covered.
Ludden’s Panthers reported to the field at 6 a.m. Wednesday as practice officially commenced across the Fredericksburg area.
“That’s always the real test for kids, for anybody, is to get your motor running that early,” Ludden said. “They brought some good energy I thought. Seemed really excited.”
Per Virginia High School League regulations, players can’t don shoulder pads until the fourth day of practice, making these early workouts more about comprehension than contact.
“The first couple days, what I really want to see is the kids putting in the effort to learn,” Riverbend head coach Nathan Yates said. “There’s no contact, there’s no hitting, so I want our kids to get the grasp of our offense and defense.
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“For the young guys, I want them to get a grasp of how we do things.”
North Stafford will be the first area team to kick off the season with a Thursday night game Aug. 25 at Gar-Field. Most of the other local schools begin the regular season the following evening.
Across the area, teams have taken varying approaches when it comes to beating—or at least mitigating—Virginia’s dogged summer heat.
Two-a-day practices are the norm at Massaponax, while Yates’ Bears and several other programs have elected for one lengthier workout block later in the evening.
The heat has already impacted workouts; in Stafford County, Mountain View lost the final 30 minutes of its opening practice when outdoor activities were “black-flagged” due to wet-bulb temperature.
Several coaches noted that the first day of practice marks a departure from the more laid-back vibe of offseason workouts.
“It changes,” said Lou Sorrentino, Mountain View’s hall of fame coach. “Once season officially starts, it’s different. If a guy misses a workout during the offseason, it’s not such a big deal. But now it counts for good.”
It’s also considerably faster.
“We’ve had a great turnout for summer workouts, but those aren’t like practices, where you’re going bam, bam, bam, bam,” third-year James Monroe head coach George Coghill said. “Just getting them used to the speed of the game and making sure they’re getting their cardio in—no pulled muscles or that sort of thing. That’s my initial thought.”
If early returns are to be trusted, turnout seems high across the area. Sorrentino said he expects to make cuts on varsity for the first time in several years. At Riverbend, Yates had 107 returned physicals as of Wednesday morning.
“We have more players than we have equipment,” Sorrentino said. “It’s a blessing and a curse.”
Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5045