“Count Down to Kick Off” is officially underway around the state as football programs enter the second week of practice.
Pierce County and all 400-plus football-playing schools began preparations for the 2016 season last week during the five-day acclimation period. Because summer workouts are not mandatory, G.H.S.A. (Georgia High School Association) mandates a five-day acclimation period in shorts and helmets before full contact practices can begin. Any prospective player that misses the first week or parts of the first week must go through the five-day process before being issued a uniform.
“We had approximately 80 players out last week,” said head coach Sean Pender. “We may get some freshmen out when school starts, but we won’t take anybody else unless its a transfer.”
PCHS will don the full gear Monday with the week ending with a scrimmage Friday at 8 p.m., against Class A Irwin County. The matchup with the Indians is the first of two scrimmages for the Bears prior to the August 26 season opener.
“The first week was working a lot on fundamentals and trying to figure out the depth chart,” said Pender. “We’re ahead of schedule because of the OTA (Organized Team Activities) camps. Those helped us (coaches) figure out where we needed to make adjustments.”
The OTAs were 11-on-11 camps in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads and contact was “thud” with quick whistles.
“Those camps are controlled scrimmages,” said Pender. “We don’t won’t anyone getting hurt so we had quick whistles as soon as we heard a thud (contact).”
The Bears will limp into the first week of full contact with injuries to five starters. Three are on the offensive line.
“We’re banged up pretty good,” said Pender. “I don’t know how many may be able to play in this first scrimmage. I’m really not worried because I would rather have them for the regular season.”
Starting center Blake Stephenson is rehabbing from a dislocated knee cap and is out. Landon Teston is recovering from an OTA accident that required stitches, which will be removed today (Wednesday). He may play.
Cole Crosby is suffering from a shoulder injury and his status is questionable. LaFallon Taylor is battling an ankle sprain and is questionable. On the defensive side, linebacker Ben Aldridge is out indefinitely with a groin injury.
PCHS will go into the scrimmage against the Irwin County, which has played for the state title each of the past two seasons, without a game plan in place.
“Defensively, we want to work on getting stops against the run,” Pender said. “They (Indians) run the wing-T and that will be a good test for us. We’ll be in a straight base defense. We’re going to back to our 3-3 stack alignment, but we’ll give different looks up front.
“Offensively, it’s going to be about execution and precision passing. We’re going to run straight base plays and look for tempo as much as the referees will allow.”
During summer workouts, the Bears averaged nine seconds per snap with running plays and 12 seconds per snap for passing plays.
Pender said moving the scrimmage back Friday night gives an extra half-hour for the sun to go down. The varsity will scrimmage over three 12-minute quarters with the junior varsity finishing up a 12-minute fourth quarter.
“All special teams play will be dead,” said Pender. “Wherever the ball is caught or stops rolling on a punt is where the possession will start. All PATs will be dead as well.”
The two teams will alternate three-minute possessions during the junior varsity with each having two offensive possessions.
Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the gate.
“I encourage everybody to come out,” said Pender. “We’re using this as a fundraiser for the program.