Early bird special

Published 11:28 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2013

King's Fork High School football players hit the ground and pop up during a defensive pursuit drill that was part of conditioning at the first official day of practice for the fall season on Monday.

King’s Fork High School football players hit the ground and pop up during a defensive pursuit drill that was part of conditioning at the first official day of practice for the fall season on Monday.

KFHS and NSA enjoy benefits of summer work

As the football teams for King’s Fork High School and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy engaged in their first official practices of the fall season on Monday, they were beneficiaries of the opportunities to prepare provided all summer long by their coaches.

Bulldogs head coach Joe Jones has been holding summer workouts regularly and experienced the highest level of participation ever, thanks in large part to the team’s unprecedented success in 2012.

In the context of these prior weight training and conditioning sessions, Jones said day one of practice “is just an extension of that.”

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He said many of the 46 varsity players to show up on Monday were in pretty good physical shape.

“Now we’ve just got to get them into football shape,” he said.

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Saints football team jogs back to the Upper School building for a break on Monday, the first official day of practice for the fall season.

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Saints football team jogs back to the Upper School building for a break on Monday, the first official day of practice for the fall season.

This involves conditioning players’ muscles to quick starts and stops and abrupt changes in direction.

Saints head coach Lew Johnston has been working with most of his players since June 1, with regular weightlifting and training for 7-on-7 tournaments, including the Peanut City Shootout, which involved all four Suffolk football programs.

He was pleased to announce that 35 of the 43 players showing up for varsity and junior varsity Monday had been involved in the prior conditioning, leaving them in good standing to push through a potentially hot August and be physically ready for the season.

“We don’t have to go a whole lot further for them to be where we need them to be,” Johnston said.

Reaching this point for either team requires more than just a pre-existing workout routine. In July, Jones began talking to his players about nutrition. His advice to players for getting through the hot and humid practices was “just to eat right and hydrate themselves.” He warned them to stay away from fried food and sugary drinks.

Johnston said his players are encouraged to drink 64 ounces of water each evening after practice and then 64 ounces more in the morning.

Jones has an “earn your pads” physical test awaiting players to ensure that they are in good enough shape to play. It consists of a one-mile run, with times determined by coaches for each position, followed by a 10- to 15-minute break. Then, four full “gassers” are required, each involving sprinting from one sideline to another and back.

Players with no more than one absence from offseason workouts are exempted from the test.

While Johnston said he does not have a conditioning test with required times, he has been known to take his team through a challenging routine, featuring runs of 110, 220 and 330 yards, separated by breaks of 60 to 90 seconds.

The NSA coach has always been pleased by his team’s work ethic, saying, “There has never been a case where I have had to fuss at a kid for not hustling.”

Jones said part of the point of practice is to cultivate mental toughness in players by putting them in uncomfortable positions, like having to run through the offense and defense while tired.

Players from both schools cited similar things helping them push through the difficulties of football practice in August.

“Being that I’m a senior this year, I know I’ve got a lot of people looking up to me, so I’ve just got to stay strong,” King’s Fork’s Jaquon Diggs said.

NSA senior John Mobley said there were seniors in previous years he looked up to because they always tried their hardest on sprints. Now, he needs to be that senior.

Fellow senior Michael Tyler Lepore said helping teammates go all-out in conditioning can be a motivator to push oneself.

“You go as hard as you can for the guy next to you,” he said.

Jared Morse, also a Saints senior, had the drive, because “I know how close we came last year,” he said, referring to NSA’s runner-up finish in the state championship.

With fairly conditioned players, both coaches were able to focus more on other goals for the first practice. Johnston worked on the intricacies of the Delaware Wing-T offense. Jones said his goals included running a smooth, on-time practice with everyone eligible, setting “the tone for the rest of the preseason that, ‘Hey, we’re here to work.’”