By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON — South Effingham spent two days at the Buddy Nobles padded football camp at Toombs County High School last week getting some work in shoulder pads and helmets.
For the Mustangs, the padded camp was a foreshadowing of practices in August.
SEHS and Effingham County begin workouts in pads Aug. 2 in accordance with Georgia High School Association guidelines.
An acclimation period of five days to get players accustomed to running around in the heat begins today. Shoulder pads and padded pants add another layer of discomfort in the Georgia heat.
“The summer helps you prepare, but there are some things that you can’t do if you can’t tackle,” SEHS coach Nathan Clark said.
The GHSA also marks Aug. 2 as the first day for volleyball, softball and cross country practices.
Mustang and Rebel football players have been working since school ended in May. Although conducted by coaches, the summer practices have been voluntary and in shorts and helmets. Padded camps, which allows “thud” contact (contact without taking a player to the ground), are the exceptions.
“It was great for the kids to strap it up and bang into other people,” Clark said about his team’s trip to Lyons on July 20 and July 22.
Now the intensity will be dialed up a few notches. The GHSA makes the five-day acclimation period mandatory before pads become standard garb.
“It’s a really big deal,” Clark said. “This is a time when you have a different mentality. In the spring, you work on running the ball. In the summer, you work on throwing and in the fall, you’re putting it all together.”
With pads on, linemen become part of the overall picture. And with pads on, the game of football becomes more physical.
“Obviously, you’ll be spending more time on blocking and tackling because you can’t do that in the summer,” Effingham County coach John Ford said. “It’s more now, can you handle the physicality?”
SEHS and ECHS had some work in pads in May when the GHSA allowed 10 practices within 13 school days for spring practice.
During the summer, (except for two dead weeks under GHSA guidelines) the Mustangs and Rebels continued weight lifting programs along with work outside in the morning.
However, without pads, linemen basically walk through run-blocking exercises. No one shies away from being hit because you aren’t allowed to hit.
That all changes when pads are added.
It’s a big change for the players and they’ll have to acclimate quickly to the heat and the extra equipment. After Aug. 5 (when school starts), practices will be held at 4 p.m.
And it won’t be long before the action starts for real. SEHS will scrimmage Beach High School on Aug. 20 before kicking off the season at Metter on Aug. 27.
ECHS has a scrimmage against Screven County on Aug. 13 and opens the season at home against Beaufort, S.C., on Aug. 27.