With the Pigskin Jamboree slated for tomorrow and the official start to the high school football season just a week after that, teams across Sampson County are itching to step back onto the field of play for the first time in months and are doing all they can to make sure they are ready when the time finally comes.
While the majority of players have been working out since even before final exams ended in preparation for what lies so soon ahead, official team workouts started last week and teams have just recently been allowed to break out their shoulder pads and helmets to get themselves back into the swing of things.
And their coaches are crossing their fingers, hoping that the process doesn’t take too long.
“Obviously it’s a lot hotter with the pads on,” Lakewood head coach James Lewis says. “It takes them a while to get in that groove of making contact. They’re all sore now. It takes them a while to adjust.”
Midway head coach Tommy Sloan echoes the sentiment.
“When they get to hitting people, it gets a little faster for them,” he says. “The game speeds up. They’ve got to adjust to that. You just hope they adjust pretty quick.”
But as each team trudges through the dog days of August en route to the cooler months of fall, each coaching staff is taking the necessary precautions needed to keep their players safe.
As more and more attention is being given to the dangers of dehydration, the coaches are taking no risks.
“It’s changed a lot,” says Lewis on the differences in the steps teams have taken to avoid such problems than in years past. “We’re all a lot more educated about hydration and the importance of it. We make water available to them during practice any time they need it.
“I think the kids are a lot more educated about what they need to do to stay hydrated,” he continues, “and for the most part they do a much better job of drinking water and Gatorade and staying away from sodas. They know they have to hydrate themselves.”
But no matter the heat, the football season remains just a week away.
The annual Jamboree should help ease the teams back into the rigours of the football season. With Union, Clinton, Lakewood, Hobbton, and Midway ready to match up at Clinton’s Dark Horse Stadium in a series of 10-minute scrimmages, each team’s offense and defense will get plenty of practice reps in an enviornment with a regular season intensity.
Each of the county teams will be able to get a good look at their conference rivals before the season even begins. Though the scrimmages obviously count nothing statistically towards the season totals, each team approaches the Jamboree with a different mindset.
“It’s hard to designate any one thing (the team will be working on),” says Sloan. “We’re going to work on our stuff and not really worry about other teams too much. We’ve got a lot of teams we’re going against and everybody’s got a different offense, different defense. We’ll just try to work on our stuff and instead of doing what we’d ordinarily do, scouting them or whatever, we’re going to try to get our technique a little bit better.”
“It’s sort of a showcase for everybody,” says Lewis of the Jamboree. “You want to go in there and at least look like you’ve been working. It’s just a learning experience, everyone knows that.”
Each team will look at the Jamboree a little differently, but what every coach wants to see from now until the start of the season and on after that, is a steady improvement.
Through practices in the August heat, the Pigskin Jamboree, and on to the opening kickoff of the 2012 football season, they hope to accomplish just that.