Fall football practice kicked off on Wednesday for two of the three teams in Gordon County, Gordon Central and Sonoraville, as they met for their first official organized session since spring practice in May.
Both the Warriors and the Phoenix are taking advantage of the new GHSA rule that allows five ‘acclimation’ days of practice in just shorts, shirts and helmets that could begin July 25. (In previous years, the first day of any organized team activities couldn’t take place until Aug. 1.)
“There’s so many things on our mind the first few days with the new policy in placed … setting up your cooling zone, fans and tents, monitoring the heat and humidity and keeping everyone hydrated,” said Sonoraville coach Roger Gentry. “The more practices we get under our belt, the more those things will become routine.
“As far as getting work in on the field, I think that these extra days in late July along with the work we’ve done at camps and passing leagues, will put us ahead of the game.”
The Phoenix have had a busy summer, attending FCA Team Camp at West Georgia last week, along with hosting a 7-on-7 passing tournament at Sonoraville on July 12. Their offensive linemen also attended camp at Middle Georgia College, and their quarterbacks and receivers attended a separate camp at Middle Georgia.
Over at Gordon Central, coach Chad Fisher said it was good to be on the field after a productive spring and summer.
“It’s good to get back and get the juices flowing,” said Fisher. “The state requires us to have five days in just helmets, and these are the practices when it counts.
“Obviously, being the first day, it’s not going to be the most crisp practice, but overall the kids did well. We’ve got a ways to go, though.”
Both Sonoraville and Gordon Central had to come off the field early because of the GHSA heat rules. Fisher said that’s just part of abiding by the rules.
“The heat policy mandates certain things in order for player safety, which I’m totally supportive of,” said Fisher. “But it does affect you at times, and you’ve got to be able to change your plans on the fly like today.
“We are going to go early in the morning and later in the evening as much as possible because the heat is not something you want to mess around with.”
The Phoenix are coming off a 4-6 season and will move into Region 5-AAA this season after playing the last six seasons in 7-AA. Much of their spring and summer was devoted to implementing a new offensive system, as they will move to the spread this fall.
“All in all, it was a good first day for us,” said Gentry. “The heat is in the back of our minds as coaches, so the five days before we put pads on are good to have.
“We want to get all we can get in with the new offense. Having as many reps as we can and putting kids in the right positions is a big thing for us.”
Gordon Central is coming off a 7-4 season in 2011 that saw them play in their first state playoff game since 2005 under former coach Bill Long. They will also be moving into Region 5-AAA after spending the past several years in 7-AA.
“We had the issues of replacing and creating depth at running back and offensive line, and I think we’ve done that,” said Fisher. “But our biggest focus right now is getting better, and that means in all three phases of the game. We are going to spend a lot of time in the first few weeks just on fundamentals.
“We are no where near where we want to be at the start of the season. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I feel good about where we’re going.”
Calhoun will begin practice on Monday.
Sonoraville will have their preseason scrimmage on Aug. 17 when they host Armuchee. Gordon Central will scrimmage that next Tuesday (Aug. 21) at Cass. The Jackets visit Rome for a scrimmage on Aug. 16 at Barron Stadium.
Both the Phoenix and the Warriors will open up the regular season at home on Aug. 31, with Sonoraville hosting Pickens and Gordon Central hosting Coosa.
Calhoun opens up their Class AA state title defense that same night, hosting Ridgeland.