The NFL has ironed out their differences. College football is just around the corner. And high school teams can put on their pads and start hitting for real Monday. All is well in the world of football.
While the “big boys” are trying to figure out who is going to play where, local gridiron athletes having been chomping at the bits for the chance to strap on the equipment and practice for real.
With more than 300 players on four local high school squads, the competition for playing time will be fierce.
“We’ve done the conditioning and ‘passing leagues,’ but our guys are ready to hit,” commented Damon Floyd, who has more than 100 players vying for a spot on his sixth Bradley Central team.
“We’re going to have to come up with some more equipment,” he added. “We had 60 players with perfect attendance during our off-season conditioning program. That’s the most we’ve ever had.”
Cleveland High has 80 players out for the defending District 5-AAA champion Blue Raider squad, while Walker Valley has 72 Mustang hopefuls and Polk County has 60 aboard the “Big Red Train.”
While traditionally teams hold “two-a-day” workouts the first couple of weeks in pads, none of the local teams are planning to do so this season.
“We had our two-a-days last week as part of our conditioning without pads,” Walker Valley head coach Ted Lockerby explained. “With the addition of our workout ‘pit,’ the off-season conditioning has gone better than ever. It’s a little different but we’ve had a good response.”
Both Floyd and Cleveland coach E.K. Slaughter cited the fact the local school systems are holding teacher in-service training (which coaches are required to attend) and classes beginning as the reason for going away from the grueling tradition.
The first day for classes at Cleveland City Schools is Thursday, while Bradley County begins the following Monday.
Polk County, which opens classes Aug. 9, hasn’t used the “two-a-day” drills for the past few seasons.
“With so many of our guys working summer jobs, we’ve just used evening practices and its worked out well,” commented Wildcat head coach Derrick Davis.
With just three weeks to prepare for the upcoming season, local teams are participating in two pre-season scrimmage dates, plus the annual jamborees.
Cleveland and Walker Valley will both travel to Chattanooga Friday to open practice-game play. The Blue Raiders will journey to Hixson at 6 p.m. Friday, while the Mustangs will gallop into Harrison at 7 p.m. to face Chattanooga Central and Sequatchie County.
After going to Alcoa for a joint practice with the seven-time defending Class 3A state champs Thursday, Bradley Central will hold its annual five-way scrimmage Saturday. South Pittsburg and McMinn Central are returning, plus newcomers Clinton and Brainerd will join the fun at with a 6 p.m. start at Bear Stadium and the BCHS practice field.
All three county teams will be back in action on Aug. 10. Cleveland and Walker Valley will be at home with 6 p.m. starts against Jefferson County and Baylor respectively. Bradley will be on the road that same evening at McCallie for a 6:30 matchup.
On Aug 12 a trio of local teams will play in high school jamborees, while the fourth will take the field Aug. 13.
The Friday night action at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga will include Cleveland taking on Boyd-Buchanan at 8 p.m., while Bradley will square off against former Bear coach Bill Price’s state champion Signal Mountain squad at 9.
Polk County will travel to Loudon for its annual jamboree. The Wildcats opponent and game time have yet to be announced.
The following evening, Walker Valley will close out the three-day Finley Stadium jamboree action at 9:30 against Tyner Academy.
The regular season will begin Aug. 19 with Polk County invading Bear Stadium for a rematch of their last two season-opening heated battles.
Walker Valley will also open at home that same evening with East Ridge coming to “The Corral.”
Cleveland will open the 2011 campaign the following evening in the first-game of the Blount County Bowl. The Blue Raiders will take on Alcoa in a 5 p.m. kickoff at Maryville High School. The host Rebels will square off against Knoxville Webb in the nightcap.