An assistant coach shouts, “We need a corner.” A cornerback scrambles to get on the field before the ball is snapped.
“Good job! Good job!”
That’s another assistant after the play, and the good job was turned in by the receiver who ran a perfect route, turned in time and caught a perfect pass. Maybe the “Good job! Good job!” was directed at the quarterback, who made the throw. Or a lineman who turned away a linebacker. Or maybe for everyone on “O” who did their job.
Hard to tell.
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What’s clear is this: It is the first day of high school football practice, and everyone is eager to show how they’ve improved since the spring game.
“First group ‘D.’ Let’s go!” A couch shouts.
The seniors looked hungry. The freshmen looked overwhelmed.
I have a wall calendar at home. It says “August,” and the accompanying photo is all sun and sand and sea oats.
A nice image for some, but I like to think August looks like this: High school football players wearing helmets, T-shirts and shorts. Coaches wearing visors.
If there was sound, it would be the “tweet-tweeeeet” of a coach’s whistle.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!”
First day and everyone is excited. First day and everyone looks all-area. “This is our year,” yells a running back.
Who can argue?
First day and the year belongs to everyone sweating under the hot afternoon sun.
From here, if you look past the light towers above the football stadium and through the trees that line the practice field you can see all the way to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, the site of the state championship games. Who doesn’t want to finish their season in that tired, old stadium? Dump the bucket of water over coach’s head and line up for the medals.
Sure, there is the long season and the half-as-long postseason, but at this time of the year, every team is unbeaten, untied and looking like a squad not to be taken lightly. Word is this county will field some pretty good teams this fall.
First day of practice and the quarterback and center haven’t missed one exchange.
First day and the receivers are running the right routes, and the defense moves to the right spots when a coach shouts,” Nebraska! Nebraska!” or “Florida! Florida!”
“Everybody take a knee.”
The players surround the head coach. Good job, they are told. You worked hard, they are told.
“See you tomorrow morning. Be back here at 7:15.”
That’s a.m. That’s when the second day of practice begins.