Every coach will agree that spring is about evaluating talent for high school football. The best way of going about gauging specific strengths and weakness varies depending on which coach you ask.
Friday night was a popular date for schools such as North Hall, Gainesville and Chestatee, among others to stage a spring football game, while Flowery Branch and Johnson are conducting their spring games Monday night.
One thing was clear: getting to suit up in full pads brought out an instinctive competitive nature one would see during the regular season.
"I just like the fact they are really enjoying this," Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said during the Red/White scrimmage at City Park. "They’re been talking trash to each other since we drafted teams (Thursday) during practice."
"We do this spring game because it’s fun for the kids," North Hall coach Bob Christmas said Friday during the Trojans’ spring scrimmage at The Brickyard. "We could have just scrimmaged on the field during practice, but it’s more fun for the players to get out here on the field and play."
The action also gave credence to the fact that the players on all sides took the scrimmage seriously. There was constant banter between coaches and players on each sideline. A goal line stand for North Hall even evolved into a little shoving match between a couple lineman.
The Trojans also raised the curtain on a new-look offense based out of a shotgun formation, even though their longest first-half plays came on a 45-yard touchdown run from Mack VanGorder and a 54-yard run from Peyton Wilhoite.
"We want to see the guys flying around hitting people," Christmas said. "We’re not worried about the execution yet, even though it’s been pretty good."
The first quarter of the Red Elephants’ spring scrimmage also featured some big offensive plays, primarily a flea flicker pass of 65 yards from quarterback Blake Sims to wide receiver Chris West. Sims, an Alabama verbal commitment, also had a 5-yard touchdown run and an interception in the first quarter from his safety position, and running back Teryan Rucker high-stepped for a touchdown from about 30 yards for Gainesville.
"It’s nice to see Chris West playing like he is," Miller said.
Johnson coach Paul Friel considers this year’s spring game a welcomed luxury. With 94 players signed up for football, and averaging 75 per day during spring drills, he can start fitting personnel into the offensive and defensive packages that the best match. That’s a drastic increase from the 30-40 players the Knights dressed out during the regular season in 2008.
"I think we only have two players that are going to go both ways (offense and defense) now," Friel said. "We can start running practice the way we want to now."
At East Hall, coach Bryan Gray opted for an intrasquad scrimmage Friday with a variety of forums for players such as a 7-on-7 challenge and lineman challenge.
With 53 players, and only seven seniors, Gray didn’t see any benefit to lining up so many new players against a small group of experienced returning players, and expecting an accurate barometer for where the Vikings stand heading into summer conditioning.
"Spring is more for evaluating talent," Gray said. "We feel like this intrasquad practice gives us the best chance to end spring on a good note and for the kids to feel successful."
Once spring is complete, most schools will take between two-four weeks off before heading into summer conditioning and weightlifting. Then it’s an eight week grind preparing for the opening of the regular season.