There was nothing normal about Northside’s 15th Monday practice since the season began.
The Eagles got going at about the regular time, but under blue skies, a lonely sun and temperatures having cracked 70 degrees.
They got going almost 20 miles from home, and they did so on FieldTurf for the first time.
“In school all (Monday), I was thinking about it,” senior tailback Willie Jordan said. “ ‘What’re we gonna do with the turf?’ ”
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Northside got in a practice on the site of Friday’s GHSA Class AAAAA semifinal game against Allatoona, at the young and fresh Mercer University Stadium.
Sunshine bounced off of the alumunim seats and made green turf seem an even brighter green.
The size of the facility is nothing new for Northside, playing a second straight home playoff game away from McConnell-Talbert Stadium because of substandard field conditions, although the layout of Mercer’s stadium is a little different than what the Eagles are used to.
This is their debut on grass that’s not natural. A few players have played or practiced on turf, but Northside hasn’t as a team. Everybody finished the afternoon intact. Mostly.
The normally nimble Jordan wasn’t as nimble as normal from start to finish.
“Yeah, I fell down like twice,” he said with a laugh. “I had to adjust to it.”
Jordan will enter Friday’s game 61 yards from 2,000 for the season, so his adjustment is pretty relevant.
“I’m straight,” he said. “I got it.”
The stadium is home to a former teammate. Corey Lockett is a sophomore linebacker for the Bears, and was a senior on the Northside team that lost 17-16 to Tucker at McConnell-Talbert in the 2011 semifinals. He watched part of Monday’s practice, which head coach Kevin Kinsler said went pretty close to the plan.
“We accomplished what we wanted,” he said. “We wanted to get the walk-through out of the way before practice so they could get familiar with it. Practice went pretty good. We accomplished what we wanted, which was to get them past being here.
“Once we did that, let them walk around everything, we could focus on just the football end of it.”
This will be the second straight week that Northside has played a home game away from home, McConnell-Talbert Stadium in Warner Robins. Last Friday, adjustments to the change appeared invisible in the Eagles’ 31-7 romp over Glynn Academy at Peach County.
The Eagles hadn’t played an in-season game at Peach County since 2005, the last time Northside and Peach County played during the season (a 30-12 Northside win). But the teams have scrimmaged in the preseason in Fort Valley.
“It does make it a little bit easier,” offensive tackle Brandon Sandifer said. “It wasn’t far to travel. We were familiar with the locker rooms, and we kind of knew the field.”
The familiarity helped the Eagles a week ago after another funky Monday practice during which the Eagles found patches of dry grass at school on which to get something accomplished.
“They don’t care where we play or practice,” offensive coordinator Chad Alligood said. “They just adapt so easily.”
Allatoona might have a slight edge, since the Bucs play on turf at home.
Or not. While much has been made outside about the Eagles’ travel to home games and now a new surface, the players pretty much just shrug and offer the basic math and diagramming.
“We have white lines, we have numbers and we have two end zones,” center Trey Scott said. “It’s a football game. I’m just excited.”