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Summer conditioning: Commerce ready to reload
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It's business as usual for the Commerce High football team this summer.

Instead of worrying about last season’s 5-6 record, their first losing season since 1992, the Tigers aren’t asking themselves any questions or making any drastic changes to their historically successful program.

"All we’ve been doing so far is running and lifting weights," Commerce head coach Steve Savage said. "We’ll pick things up a little bit more later in July."

Despite his team’s unimpressive 2008 record, Savage has no reason to change the Tigers’ summer schedule. Commerce still made the playoffs, and his players are determined to do it again this fall.

"So far, we’ve had good participation," Savage said. "Our kids had a good winter and spring in the weight room. They did a good job growing up and accepting responsibilities of getting themselves stronger."

The rest of July will consist of team workouts and conditioning, followed by the Northeast Georgia Offensive Camp from July 21-23, which Commerce hosts.

The camp, now in its 14th year, was started by Savage, Brian Thompson of Stephens County, Paul Standard of St. Pius X and Jimmy Bentley of Winder-Barrow.

The camp allows players to focus on improvement in one specific offensive area under direct supervision of coaches from area high schools. Savage expects to have 250-300 attendees this year.

"Kids all over north Georgia will be there," Savage said. "Participation has been good."

After camp the Tigers begin preparation for Aug. 1 when football season officially begins and teams are allowed to practice with helmets and pads.

It’s also when Savage begins assigning positions to players and tweaking his depth chart. With only 14 players graduating in May, he expects to have less players on both sides of the ball this season.

"Depth is always the same thing in Commerce," Savage said. "We won’t have a tremendous amount of depth, but we’ll still be able to play 19-20 different kids."

Luckily for Savage, two of those players are halfbacks Jon Cash and Deon Orsborne, his two leading rushers from a year ago. The two returning seniors combined for 1,354 yards on the ground, as part of Savage’s triple-option offense.

Orsborne also gives Commerce the ability to pass if needed, after totaling 234 yards and three touchdowns on five catches last year.

Defensively, the Tigers return their three leading tacklers in Josh Streetman, Travaris Glasper and Casey Drinkard. The three seniors combined for over 200 tackles last year.

With the presence of seasoned players in the weight room over the summer, one of Commerce’s goals is to not just make the playoffs, but to win there as well, after two first-round exits in 2008 and 2007.

"The past two years, we’ve been disappointed in not making past the first round," Savage said. "It’s not on our agenda right now, but it will be when we get to that time of the season.

"We have a tough four-game non-region schedule, so we’ll have our hands full just getting ready for that."

How much improvement Commerce makes this summer will be tested when it opens the regular season with the four non-region opponents. After visiting archrival Jefferson, the Tigers play Franklin County, Morgan County and Lincoln County.

"That’s four pretty good teams," Savage said.

Things won’t be much easier once region play starts. Among Commerce’s opponents is defending Class A state champion Wesleyan. The Tigers have targeted the Wolves for a potential upset after trailing them by a touchdown at halftime last year.

"We looking forward to playing them," Savage said. "It’ll be a heck of a game."

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