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High school football: Local teams use midseason bye week to recharge for start of region schedule
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Cherokee Bluff running back Jayquan Smith breaks free from Johnson defenders for a big gain Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, during the first half of their win over Johnson High at the Cherokee Bluff stadium. - photo by Scott Rogers

Tommy Jones has been a high school head football coach for 13 years, and at this point, he’s got a good handle on how a typical season is supposed to go. 

After working out the kinks during nonregion play, the team comes into the region schedule playing its best football of the year and finishes on a high note. The Bears are officially through the first phase of the year, after going 1-3 against nonregion opponents. But Cherokee Bluff has a bye week before the its first region contest on Sept. 27, and Jones said the off night is an important opportunity for he and his players. 

It provides a chance to sit back and relax one last time before things start to get serious. 

“My wife and I for the past few years we’ve tried to use the bye week to get out of town for the weekend,” Jones said, “Exhale for a weekend before the onslaught of the region schedule.”

This year, Jones will be traveling to watch Furman — his alma mater — take on Mercer in Greenville, S.C., a trip that should help him to unwind and recharge while he has the chance. 

The slow weekend is equally important to the athletes.

“The biggest thing is just to be able to use this weekend to get caught up on some sleep, and we talked to (the team) about that,” Jones said. “Make sure they eat right and stay healthy and stay active so they stay somewhat in the routine that we’ve been in for the last five or six weeks.”

It’s a welcome rest period that schools all over the county will take advantage of this Friday. 

Of the 11 Hall County high school football teams, seven are off this week, and six of those seven begin region play immediately out of the bye. Jones said rest and relaxation have always been among the most important aspects of a midseason bye week for the players, and in recent years even coaches have begun to afford some time off. 

In past, Jones would spend any Friday’s his team isn’t playing scouting future opponents in their stadiums. But with the increased use of social media in recruitment, tape of the opposition is always available, cutting down on the workload for head coaches intent on finding off time during the season. 

“Used to be you would always want to scout and watch your opponents,” Jones said. “But the way that Hudl and viewing film has changed, we know we’re going to get all that film and we’re going to get quality copies and that sort of thing.”

In terms of the focus in practice over the team’s two-week layoff between games, Jones said the bye provides a perfect opportunity to touch up on the fundamentals of tackling and blocking. With no opponent to game plan against, the Bears can keep the focus on themselves as they shore up any lingering issues that persisted through their four nonregion contests. After that, it’s back to the usual grind.

Only four Hall County teams will be suiting up for games this weekend, so Friday will be a quiet night for area football. But with the more intensive region schedule just over the horizon, the storm is sure to follow the calm.

“The hope is that throughout the season that you gradually and continue to improve, that you build momentum and by the time you get to your region schedule, you’re playing your best football,” Jones said. “There’s never a guarantee that that’s the case, but that’s kind of how you want it to play out.” 

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