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High school programs preparing for football scrimmages this week
Gainesville High football players work out without pads Monday afternoon at the school's practice field as they prepare for the upcoming scrimmage against St. Pius X.

This is without question the only week in the high school football season when programs are preparing for a game on Friday night, but not worried about winning.

If things go well in the scrimmage outing, area coaching staffs can chalk it up to a good start to practice and some positive momentum going into the season opener. And if it turns into a complete disaster, nobody's any worse off than before.

"I want to see us become a team," said Riverside Military coach Chris Cotter, whose Eagles scrimmage Hebron Christian at 7 p.m. Friday at Maginnis Field. "I want to see us work on teamwork, hustling and execution."

"I'm not worried about us trying to win."

In fact, this week is when coaches really show their first tactical play of the season. Some coaches are waiting until next week to scrimmage since the regular season for the majority of schools opens on Aug. 26.

Riverside Military, Buford and Towns County are the only local schools that open the regular season on Aug. 19, making a scrimmage this weekend the only option.

For others, playing a scrimmage this week gives a two-week cushion to review game film and hopefully nurse any injured athletes back to health.

Due to the heat, Hall County schools have been prohibited from practicing outdoors between noon and 6 p.m., but plan to return to normal practice hours after school today.

East Hall coach Bryan Gray said that this summer has been the hottest and toughest to schedule practice around since 2008.

He opted to let his team have Monday off primarily since it was the first day of school and then spend the next three days getting ready for the Vikings' scrimmage against Chestatee at 7:30 p.m. Friday at East Hall Stadium.

Even though it's an added bonus to scrimmage a team from the same county, the primary focus for East Hall in the scrimmage is to find out which players are ready to compete.

Winning isn't the point. Most schools are only planning to run basic offensive and defensive packages to keep the bulk of the playbook a secret for the regular season.

"Our kids are extremely focused," Gray said. "My biggest thing I want to see in the scrimmage is how we hold up against a very strong offensive and defensive line from Chestatee."

Gainesville opens with a challenging scrimmage against St. Pius X at 7:30 Friday at City Park. Red Elephants coach Bruce Miller began practice Monday in the school's old gym due to the heat, but moved outside later when heat indexes dropped.

Miller is in the camp of coaches who think it's best to have two weeks to prepare for the season opener.

Right off the bat, Gainesville's coach was pleased with his team's attitude and effort considering that the first day of the week also marked the first day of the school calendar.

"Our players have a great attitude and workmanlike approach to practice," said Miller, whose team opens the season against defending Class AA state champion Buford on Aug. 26 at Tom Riden Stadium in Buford.

He said moving into a routine of practicing right after the end of the school day isn't a big deal for his players.

"Kids do a good job of adjusting," Miller said.

Meanwhile, some schools are taking the same approach to this week at practice.

North Hall is one of the schools that isn't scrimmaging until next week (Aug. 19 vs. Forsyth Central), but mainly due to the fact that the Trojans don't open the regular season until Sept. 2 against Jefferson.

"I'd hate to have three weeks between a scrimmage and our opening game," Trojans coach Bob Christmas said.

Christmas said his program's approach to practice this week would remain the same as last week: prepare for the first three regular-season opponents.

Still, North Hall's coach sees the light come on with his players knowing they're closing in on getting to compete against players wearing a different uniform.

"They almost get as excited as if it's a regular-season game," Christmas said.


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