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Dual scrimmages await Chee

Kicking it off

POSTED: July 30, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Apalachee football coach Shane Davis watches as his team works on special teams. The Wildcats have two scrimmages prior to the season opener against Woodlands.

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After a less than ideal season in 2013, the Apalachee High School Wildcats hope to end their current 10-game losing streak as quickly as possible.

Although these contests may not go towards the official win-loss record, Apalachee’s first opportunity to get more points than their opponent will come in a pair of scrimmage games to open the season. 

The Wildcats will hit the field first on Aug. 8 at Morgan County. A week later, they will turn back around and host Class-AAAA Monroe Area on Aug. 15.

While most teams only get one scrimmage game a year, the Wildcats are taking advantage of a strange proviso in the GHSA regulations. Instead of having a spring practice and a single scrimmage, the Cats opted out of their spring game and went with the additional scrimmage.

Apalachee’s Shane Davis, the varsity head football coach, said at the time that it was the best possible move for the team. He still agrees with his earlier statement, but he does so while acknowledging that it may not be a great scenario.

“Well, it’s too quick. The scrimmage is too quick. Nobody really does that anymore,” Davis acknowledged. “And I’m not poor-mouthing, we’re just going to be a week into pads and so really you’re not ready. Without spring, we made that decision do you want to do two weeks or do spring? You have to decide something, so we decided to scrimmage early.”

Even though the scrimmage may come earlier than Davis feels like the team needs, it will still offer him and his coaching staff a chance to see what kind of progress the team has made during that first week in pads. 

“It’ll be good for us. It’ll be a good measuring stick to see where we are and where we need to go, and that’s what scrimmages are for, anyway,” Davis mentioned.

The split scrimmages will also give the Wildcat coaching staff two near game-speed situations to watch and learn from instead of just the usual one, so that in and of itself may prove to be a unique observatory tool for the team to use moving ahead.

If they see growth through Week One, great. If not, they know what to work on.

“You’ll be able to judge. There should be gains in between those two scrimmages, and if there are not gains in between those two scrimmages, you probably need to make a change at that position,” Davis pointed out.

Given the pros and cons of dual scrimmages, Davis once again reiterated that not all the right people were in place to put on the spring game and have it matter with any benefit. 

In that way, the difficult scrimmage schedule, with a full coaching staff in place, will still have more positive influence on the team than a spring game might have had.

“We just didn’t have a choice. I thought it was the best thing to do while hiring coaches. We didn’t have our staff in place. We had the people we wanted in place, but we were not able to offer contracts at the time and get these guys here early enough to do a spring practice,” Davis reiterated. “So it was an option, yes, but we just really didn’t feel like with the dynamics the way they were that it was the best option for us.”

With the Wildcats not yet putting on full pads for practice, the first few days are a great time for Davis to pull out some light-contact but full-speed special teams practices.

Much of Tuesday’s practice was spent working on punt coverages and kicking team responsibilities, including drills with dropped balls and missed angles. 

“It’s just according to what all we have going on. With school still being out, we’re still trying to work out and get our work-out times in. The state also limits how long you can be out there during this conditioning period,” Davis explained. “When you take all that into account, right now is a good time to at least get your special teams introduced because you’re not in pads.”

The players would spend time working on unit-specific drills, of course, and the linemen for both teams got into blocking and tackling practice with dummies, but there was a distinct element of non-contact practice for much of the afternoon session.

With all of the work Davis’ group is putting in for this part of the season, he believes that they have what it takes to finally get that round number out of the wins column. 

“I’ve always said it to everybody who will listen, I still think we have good kids and our kids still work extremely hard, and I do believe we can,” Davis mentioned.

“It’ll be tough. We play tough football teams. We play in a tough region, but our kids still come back to work every day. Our kids work hard and they’ve had a good offseason. We expect to win."

That expectation of winning, while important, may have been part of the problem in 2013. The Wildcats started the season on a brutal 0-5 run that featured the best teams in the region and some of the best teams in the state at any level of football. 

For that reason, the eventually winless Wildcats entered the midpoint of the season, when they would face their more beatable opponents, probably lacking the confidence to leave those games with a win.

With that being said, Davis knows that effort is not Apalachee’s problem. As hard as the student-athletes work for wins, they need something more. They need confidence, and that comes with early wins.

Even still, Davis believes that winning scrimmages is just practice. 

“Because we’re dealing with high school kids, we’re not dealing with college kids or NFL players, it’s important, but it’s not the end-all. These scrimmages are not the end-all. That first game is not the end-all,” Davis said with a corollary statement. 

“Now when you start getting into region games and how early our region starts, that starts hurting you.

“If you start stumbling out of the gate too many times, it’s going to hurt you. That’ll start to hurt you.”

The Wildcats would like to win their scrimmages and they would like to win that first game, and especially that first non-region game, but Davis knows that one early win is still just one win.

“It’s just like how winning that first game is not going to dictate the rest of the season either. I do think from a confidence standpoint, though, of course it’s important,” Davis conceded.

After all, scrimmages are practice. Even the first non-region game has an element of practice, which is why teams play non-region games in the first week of the season.

In that way, the Wildcats hope to find any potential problems and root them out before those annoyances become serious issues.

“Going into that first scrimmage, we may not really have a primary focus. We probably will going into the second one, but the first one we probably won’t. Really, we just need to see our kids play,” Davis explained. 

“We have new kids out there, and we even have some of our returning kids lining up in new spots, so we just need to see those kids move. We need to see those kids at game speed and we need to see them perform without putting too much on them.”

After the two scrimmages against Morgan County and Monroe Area to work out the kinks, Apalachee starts the new football season under the lights of Woodland High School in Stockbridge on Aug. 29. 

After that, Apalachee comes back to Barrow County, but not quite home. The Cats and Doggs face off on Aug. 29 for the second game of the season and for both teams’ region opener, so Davis and his staff hope that the two scrimmages will help their young men get ready for what promises to be an increasingly interesting match-up.



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