Open season

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

AHSAA football teams begin practice

By George L. Jones

The Selma Times-Journal

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All around Alabama, high school football teams have begun preparing for the upcoming season.

Trudging through one of the hottest summers on record, teams Monday began the first of three helmets-only practices this week.

In the heart of Selma, the city’s title school is entreating people to “Get like me.”

Coach Brian Montgomery heard the line in a song a couple of his players were listening to and figured it’d be good motivation.

“It’s just like saying ‘I’m a Saint, so you should get like me,'” Montgomery said. “I was like, that’s it. Saints are people who set examples, and people always remember them.”

Some coaches are fine-tuning their schemes. Some are playing catch-up.

And others will be gradually easing into full-contact drills.

“We’re going to be teaching, teaching, teaching, teaching,” said Dallas County coach Trey Baggett. “The first few days before we can put pads on, we’re going to be teaching as much as we can. We hope the next three days we can put in the bulk of the offense.”

Dallas County is moving from 4A to 5A this season, which brings with it competition that is synonymous with success in high school football.

“I think about it all the time,” Baggett said. “There are some quality teams in the region with us. Demopolis, McAdory, and Shelby County are all quality programs. It’s a whole different ball game, I believe. The kids are upbeat. I don’t think there are any kids that are not going to come out and play because of it.

“I’ve tried to make them understand it’s a lot of exposure for them playing these bigger schools.”

Some teams are coming into the season with lofty expectations.

Having gone 10 years without winning its only state championship, Maplesville was picked fifth in the preseason by the Alabama Sportswriters Association.

“We met (last) Tuesday, our last workout, and we talked about it,” Red Devils coach Brent Hubbert said in an interview Thursday. “From three years ago when they were 0-9 to 5-6 two years ago to (an 8-3 season) last year, they were the hunters. Now you have a bull’s-eye on your back, and you’ve got to think about it.

“If you’re a deer in the woods, you’ve got to work harder than the hunter.”

For Selma, the first three days of practice will be used to see if all 77 players they ended the spring with will stick.

And then the gloves come off.

“We’re going full tilt Thursday. We’re going to see who really wants to be in the team pictures,” Montgomery said.

One major concern for coaches is the heat. The conditions this year call for more attention to the hydration of the players than normal.

“As coaches, you’ve got to be real careful with these kids,” Baggett said. “We’ll probably water them too much. That’s always been my philosophy. It’s just senseless to lose a kid because you don’t want to water him.”