By Tim Chambers
The strange sound heard on July 25 is one that area football fans have been waiting for. All Tennessee high school football teams began full-contact practices on Monday after working in helmets and shoulder pads last week.
Johnson County has been busy over the past two weeks with their passing league camp games. They participated in a two-day weekend event at Hampton High School, then took part last Tuesday with Elizabethton and South Greene inside of Citizens Bank Stadium.
A couple of Johnson County’s opponents have been busy putting in schemes and ushering in new players and underclassmen. The Longhorns are focused on trying to perfect what they already have in place.
“We had close to 50 players,” said head coach Don Kerley about the number of players that participated in pads on the first day. “We would have liked to see more, but we’ll pick up some when school starts.”
Kerley and his staff had been looking forward to working in pads on Monday but found the going rather difficult.
“We moved our practices to 6 pm because of the heat index,” said Kerley. “We had been out about 90 minutes and saw the storms coming. We took everybody in and called it a day. The coaches went over to help out with the flooring inside the new field house after that. We’ve been doing a lot of different things over the past few weeks.”
The rules set forth by TSSAA are the same for every school despite where they are located geographically. That includes schools like Johnson County and Cloudland that are surrounded by mountains and located in a much higher altitude than middle and west Tennessee schools.
TSSAA rules limit contact and two-a-day practices.
If Johnson County practices twice on Monday, then only one practice will be allowed on Tuesday. If the team practices in pads on Monday and Tuesday, then they can only go in helmets and shoulder pads on Wednesday.
“We pretty much stick to the one-a-day practices,” added Kerley. “We stay within the rules and get as much work done as we can.”
TSSAA rules and the National Federation for high school football says that teams can practice three days per week in pads and the rest is limited to shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. TSSAA also limits each practice session to three hours. If the practices are broken up into two sessions then players must rest in a three-hour cool environment.
The time in pads for a player cannot exceed five hours that day.
It’s a lot of responsibility for a football coaching staff but it goes even further. They also must have knowledge about the weather.
A major concern for coaches over the next several weeks will be the heat index. If a practice is canceled due to weather conditions, then workouts can continue after conditions permit.
The heat index must be monitored in practices, scrimmages and games.
Coaches must make sure that a water supply is on hand for every practice participant. They must also hold 30-minute mandatory water breaks. Many schools are providing ice-down towel breaks.
Common sense also kicks in as well. Players should be allowed to change shorts and shirts if possible. All practices must be stopped if the heat index reaches 105 degrees. Practices must be moved indoors should that happen. It is recommended that the facility be air-conditioned.
Each school must practice in pads for at least three days before conducting any type of scrimmage game with another school.
Schools can have a max of four scrimmages or two scrimmage dates or one scrimmage date and two scrimmages. No tournament type format is allowed.
Johnson County will scrimmage Happy Valley next week. I’ll have more on the scrimmage game in next Wednesday’s edition of The Tomahawk.
Tm Chambers is the sports editor at The Tomahawk. You can email him at [email protected]