One day, 16 stops: Stephen Hargis' prep football tour covers 293 miles

One day, 16 stops: Stephen Hargis' prep football tour covers 293 miles

July 30th, 2013 by Stephen Hargis in Local Regional News

Members of the Baylor School Red Raiders football team get ready on the line of scrimmage during practice at Heywood Stadium on Monday.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

On the first day that area high school football teams began practicing in full pads, even Mother Nature was in midseason form.

The first day in pads is typically accompanied by stifling heat and humidity, but for the first time in the 14 years that I have crammed as many area teams’ practices into one day as possible, it actually felt like football weather.

As I exited my car just before 7 a.m. for the first of 16 stops, the temperature gauge on my car read 59 degrees. It never climbed above 83. “If you can’t enjoy a first day like this, you may as well find something else to do,” Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis said as his team took the field just after 8 a.m.

While Georgia high school teams must practice in shorts for two days before putting on full pads later this week, I also was able to stop by Ridgeland, which reached the Peach State’s Class AAAA state title game last season.

Beginning at first-year program Sale Creek and working into town for the morning practices, then out to Cleveland and back into town in the afternoon and evening, I covered 293 miles.

Optimism and the sound of pads popping filled the day at most schools. And with the season kicking off in less than a month, there are very few days to make preparations for what could be a memorable season for several area teams that believe this fall can end with a deep playoff run.

<em>Cont</em><em>act Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293.</em>