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Prep football programs return to field for fall practice
For a majority of people, this past Monday morning was simply the start of another workweek.
For high school football coaches around the state, though, it might as well have been a holiday.
“It was like Christmas Day,” West Orange coach Bob Head said as his team wrapped its first practice around noon on Monday.
Head is not alone in his excitement over the high school football season beginning in earnest on Monday, designated by the FHSAA as the first day teams could do non-contact practices. Another Metro Conference program, the Colonial Grenadiers, celebrated by having a practice at midnight the night before — literally getting on the field the minute they were allowed to do so.
Even though football is increasingly becoming a year-round affair, with players working hard throughout spring and summer seasons, the first day of fall practice has managed to hold on to its luster.
Where, in the spring and summer, players are working toward the regular season, once practice starts in the fall, they can celebrate working toward an actual game.
“August 4 is a day that we’re preaching way, way back in November, December and January,” Jacob Doss, head coach at Windermere Prep, said. “There’s something about it [the first day of fall practice] — it has begun.”
That mindset is how players will have to differentiate the start of practice from the 7-on-7 passing league season, which just ended within the past two weeks for most programs.
For coaches like Doss and Head, conveying to their program that the beginning of practice this week is a new beginning can be imperative to getting off to a strong start in fall camp.
“I really want to set the tone for the season and I want to let these guys know that a lot of the hard work that they’ve done in the summer and the spring has paid off,” Head said. “We had a good day — I’m excited.”
Public school programs like Head’s West Orange Warriors, along with Ocoee, Olympia and Dr. Phillips, likely had a contingent of newcomers Monday morning in addition to the players who are returning.
For incoming freshman, Monday may have been their first experience at a high school football practice after playing Pop Warner. Like other coaches, Head sought to ensure his newcomers understood that they’ve graduated to a whole new level.
“It’s the ‘Warrior Way,’” Head said. “Whatever they’ve done in the past is no longer what they’re going to do.”
After all, the work put in by prep football players over the spring, the summer and this past week is all toward one common goal — owning Fridays.
“All that stuff you do in the offseason, all that stuff you do in the spring,” Doss said. “All that stuff — is for 10 nights.”