Friday was not exactly the most pleasant day to break out football pads.
It was fairly cool for the first day of August, but the air was super thick with plenty of humidity on an overcast morning. Scattered showers likely did nothing except weigh pads down even more for players who hadn’t put them on in eight or nine months.
Players on the three Bibb County private school teams joining the GHSA this fall, however, didn’t have to worry about a rainy first practice in pads, at least not Friday. While that was the first legal day for GHSA schools to work out in full protective gear, former GISA members Mount de Sales, Stratford and Tattnall Square chose to wait.
Still, for players like Tattnall running back/linebacker Jonathan Ward, there is eager anticipation for the day when the pads come on and contact drills begin.
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“Oh yeah, everybody is (excited),” Ward said. “We’re ready to see who’s all talk and who’s the real deal.”
Mount de Sales, which is making its return to the GHSA after leaving for the GISA in 1980, did not practice Sunday and thus did not have the required number of acclimatization practices in by the time Friday rolled around. The Cavaliers are scheduled to work out in pads Saturday. When the pads do come on, it will be the initial chance for first-year head coach Keith Hatcher to see how well the offense has been installed.
“The big thing for us, everything is fairly new to our guys,” Hatcher said. “Offensively, schematically, and defensively, we’re going to look a little different this year (and) a lot different in some areas. We had to spend a lot of time just teaching this summer and into the first week of practice. Now that our kids are learning what to do, we’re working on doing it faster.
“Once we put the pads on, we’re really going to find out who can play the game of football. Right now, it’s more about learning and making sure the guys know what to do, where to go. Once we put the pads on, we’ll see who can finish plays and who is not going to shy away from contact.”
Stratford and Tattnall, meanwhile, traditionally go away to team camp at this point of the season, where they put on the pads for the first time as part of a set of team-building exercises in the week leading up to the start of school. Tattnall starts in full gear Sunday, while Stratford puts on the pads Monday.
Tattnall’s camp, which runs Sunday-Thursday, immediately precedes Friday’s first day of classes at the school.
“It’s all about having as few distractions as you can have,” second-year Tattnall head coach Clint Morgan said. “It’s about taking them off and getting them away from girlfriends, even, or just the every-day stresses that they have so they can concentrate solely on football. It makes it easier for the coaches, but it also makes it easier for them to focus and learn and being a better football player.”
Although Stratford players will have a few days to recover from camp prior to the start of school Aug. 14, head coach Mark Farriba hopes to accomplish many of the same things Tattnall will try to do at its camp.
Stratford opens the season Aug. 29 at home against Savannah Country Day, while Tattnall hosts GMC that same night. Mount de Sales’ first game is that night, as well, at Pacelli.
“There are two main goals with our camp,” Farriba said. “One is to begin to try to come together and to identify who the leaders are going to be, to really learn how to work together and be close to each other and care for each other. The other thing is just to identify players, who can do this, who can’t do this, is this guy in the right place, does this guy need to be somewhere else.
“To get away and minimize the distractions, we have a chance to focus on accomplishing the major goals that we want.”