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Football players get ready for preseason drills

The summer is sizzling and it’s swiftly slipping away. Thank Godfor air conditioning!

There’s not much cool air available, even at 6 a.m., whenfootball players from many high schools kick off their dailypreseason workouts. If the temperature does drop into the 70sbefore the rooster crows, the high humidity is making up thedifference and causing plenty of perspiration.

To make matters worse, the 2009 football season is starting aweek earlier, thanks to a directive issued by the Mississippi HighSchool Activities Association. Under the new rule, football teamscan participate in a jamboree on Aug. 14, less than two weeks intopreseason practice.

The majority of football coaches we have asked about the earlyjamboree date draws this same conclusion. “It’s too dang early tohave a full-scale scrimmage. My kids have only been in full padsfor four days. Someone’s going to get hurt.”

To coach’s credit, he can see the dangers of a prized, pumped upplayer, adrenalin rushing through his veins; giving the extraeffort in a jamboree and injuring himself, either with a pulledmuscle or a sprain, or worse.

For the unknowing reader, football coaches have been gettingtheir players in shape since school dismissed in May. They liftweights, run agility drills and run some more, often four days aweek. Such is life in the Magnolia State.

The early playing date, Aug. 21, is optional. However, many areaschools are going to play a game that Friday night but for no otherreason than to keep up with the other teams.

“We can’t afford to let (insert rival) get ahead of us byplaying an early game,” growls the grizzled coach. “They’ll haveworked on their mistakes before we ever play a game.”

Such is life in football-crazy Mississippi.

One of the big games on Aug. 21 is Loyd Star versus FranklinCounty. For sure, a large crowd will brave the heat and humidity towitness the event.

A week later, Aug. 28, Coach Tucker Peavey’s Brookhaven Panthershost Franklin County. That game should draw a huge crowd, too.

By comparison, Mississippi Private School Association memberslaunch preseason football practice a week earlier, July 27.Brookhaven Academy’s first game is Aug. 21, hosting the SillimanInstitute Wildcats of Clinton, La.

The BA Cougars, coached by Herbert Davis, are 3-time defendingDistrict 4-AA champions. They’ll participate in the ParklaneJamboree Aug. 14.

Speaking of football, The DAILY LEADER’s annual Gridiron Previewwill debut a week earlier (Aug. 21) than usual, due to thereshuffling of practice and kickoff dates. Gridiron questionnaireshave been in the mail for over two weeks. Coaches are encouraged tofill them out and return to us as soon as possible.

The first coach to respond this summer was Coach Scott Piersonof West Jones. Pierson’s Mustangs were a Cinderella team last yearafter finishing fourth in their region. They made it all the way tothe South State championship game after knocking off three playoffopponents, among them Gautier, Brookhaven and Wayne County beforelosing to D’Iberville in the South State championship game.

For the record, Noxubee County beat D’Iberville in the 4A statechampionship game.

Coach Charles Anthony of Southwest Mississippi Community Collegewas the second coach to return a questionnaire. Anthony only hasfour starters returning in defensive end Adjoin Dyson, linebackerMychal Bailey, center Ladarius Stallings and offensive lineman A.J.Freeman.

For sure, Anthony’s Bears will be young and inexperienced. Hehas just 12 lettermen returning from the 2-6 squad of 2008.

Southwest’s first game is Aug. 27, at Mississippi Delta inMoorhead.

If you need a midsummer football fix, catch next week’s 60thAnnual Bernard Blackwell High School All-Star Football Classic atMississippi College in Clinton. Kickoff is 7 p.m., Thursday night,July 16.

Members of the South squad from this area are running backKendrick Hardy and lineman Monterrio Taylor of Lawrence County andFranklin County fullback/linebacker Jordan Hunt. LCHS head coachMike Davis is coaching the South offensive line.

High school basketball receives the Mississippi Association ofCoaches All-Star Game sponsorship Saturday at MC’s Golden Dome.Brookhaven’s Marcus McGee will play for the South boys, starting at3 p.m.

The All-Star girls game is at 1 p.m. The all-star format,featuring rising seniors, has become a popular item. All-starsreported today for practice.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail sports@dailyleader.com