As soon as the clock struck midnight Saturday, the East Hall High football team dusted off its pads and headed out to the field for a full-contact practice session.
The practice in the middle of the night may seem odd, but for the Vikings, it meant being a step ahead of the competition.
As mandated by the Georgia High School Association, football season officially started Aug. 1.
Not wanting to waste any time, East Hall coach Bryan Gray began preparing for the 2009 season as soon at the GHSA allowed it with a midnight practice for the second straight year.
“We play a week earlier than everyone else, so we have a tight time table,” said Gray, whose Vikings open the regular season against Murray County on Aug. 22. “We have to get as much in before school starts.”
After East Hall, other Hall County teams followed, holding their first official practices Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Teams have approximately one week before school starts, allowing coaches to have longer or multiple practices each day.
This gives them extra time to get their players used to full contact and pads again.
“The kids are getting adjusted,” said Gainesville coach Bruce Miller, who held his first official practice Monday morning. “This is where we get into the serious part of the season.”
Other teams that held their first practice Monday were North Hall, Chestatee and Flowery Branch, who had an extra task before starting drills.
The Falcons had to move their equipment from their old campus on Hog Mountain Road to the new campus two miles southeast on Spout Springs Road, then re-issue pads and uniforms to the players. For most of the players, it was their first time in the new school.
“It was a hectic start,” Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw said. “It took everybody out of their comfort zone. But it’ll be back in routine once we make adjustments.”
Some schools didn’t wait for Monday to come around. Like East Hall, Riverside Military and Johnson started Saturday, followed by Lakeview Academy on Sunday.
For Riverside, preparing for the first practice took an entire day in advance. Cadets checked in to the barracks Friday and were issued equipment.
On Saturday morning, the team held its first practice, followed by a team meeting in the gym, film viewing and another practice in the evening.
Eagles coach Scot Sloan says some players have not attended practice yet, as many are still flying in from other parts of the world.
Among them is a prospective starting defensive end, who currently lives in Japan.
“Being a boarding school, we have to deal with late arrivals,” Sloan said. “My guys are scattered across the country. It’s a lot different than everyone else around here.”
With exception of East Hall, teams have about four weeks of practice before their Aug. 28 season openers. During that time, most teams will play a scrimmage game against other nearby schools.