Despite brutally hot weather, Effingham County High School’s football team came through its first two days of full pads in outstanding shape.
“We make water available to them at all times,” Rebels’ coach Jack Webb said. “Anytime a kid wants water, it’s right there where he’s working. When he’s finished with his part of the drill, he can get his water.”
Temperatures reached in the high 90s, with the heat index surpassing 115 for the players.
“It just seems to get hotter every year,” co-defensive coordinator Nate Hayes said. “Every year we start putting on the pads, it’s hot.”
In addition to plenty of water breaks, Webb doesn’t let his players stay out in the sun too long at one time.
The team takes two 15-minute breaks in the air-conditioned field house, which is adjacent to the practice field.
Webb said it’s typical to practice for 20 minutes, take a 10-minute break, practice for 15 minutes and then take another 15-minute break.
Athletic trainer Joe Tallent keeps a constant supply of water and sports drinks if needed for all athletes.
One of the first recognizable signs of a heat illness is cramping.
Senior linebacker Kaleb Writch, like the majority of his teammates, hydrates all day.
“It’s real hot,” he said. “I drink a lot of Gatorade and water. That’s about it. I bring a couple of Gatorades to school and drink a lot of water.”
With the heat, the Rebels don’t conduct the entire practice in full pads. Webb said the team does some drills without shoulder pads and sometimes in jerseys and helmets.
Like most teams, practice ends with a scrimmage. One group of either ninth graders, second stringers or first stringers scrimmages for 10 minutes while the other groups rest and hydrate on the sideline.
Practice starts with players conducting position-specific drills. Webb explained that the linebackers and secondary work together on coordinating coverage. The offensive line goes against the defensive line and the quarterbacks work with the running backs and the wide receivers.
Fortunately, for the Rebels, they have 15 practices and a scrimmage before the season starts Aug. 31 against the Academy of Richmond County.
“Fundamentally, we have a long way to go,” Webb said. “That’s always this time of year. I think the defense is a little bit ahead than what we were last year and offensively, it’s just a matter of timing and execution and blocking lower than what we are doing. But it will come with time. We have to be more aggressive in our play and have better execution on offense.”
The Rebels return eight starters on a defense that allowed an average of less than 10 points a game last season.
On the flip side of the ball, the Rebels return only three offensive starters. Last year’s running back duo of Anthony and Antwan Wright must be replaced.
Webb said he is looking at eight running backs, but no one has broken away from the pack yet.
“We’re still rotating them in and out of there,” he said. “Hopefully, in a couple of weeks we will find the right combination.”