“It’s a national holiday.” High school football practice officially opens in the Lynchburg area. | High school
Jeff Woody stood on the court at EC Glass on Thursday morning and watched his group of Hilltoppers. There were returning veterans – 18 of them who were either starters last season or were given a lot of playing time – a few transfers, promising JV talent and even a few upper-class men who didn’t. have never played college football but are vying for the open spots.
“We’ve got the right stuff,” Woody said, offering a cautious but optimistic prognosis. “The ingredients are there. If the chemistry is right and we can make it, it will be delicious.”
Sprawled out in front of the coach – at training stations nearby and 100 yards away – players were running, chatting, listening to instructions and roaming the bases on a July morning.
The scene was similar throughout this newspaper’s coverage area for the first official day of high school football practice. Crispy whistles cut through the summer air with the thud of pads and the squealing protests of blocking sleds that will see heavy use over the next four to five months.
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Woody gathered his players early in the morning. “It’s a national holiday,” he told them. “Everyone has energy today. Make sure you have that energy in the middle of the season or when the clouds part and it’s hot and it gets tough; make yourself believe .”
At Heritage High, defensive coordinator Jay Phares held blocking blocks in front of the players as the trailblazers rotated between practice stations. They charged one by one. “Be violent!” said Phares. “Wrap up, all the way!”
Lynchburg’s two public school programs were hard at work, each knowing the other was in full swing, each with a date in mind: Sept. 16, Week 4 of the regular season, when they meet at the Jug Bowl. of Lynchburg’s City Stadium.
It was a game Heritage won 49-42 in exciting fashion last season, Glass quarterback George White remembers well. And that’s one of the reasons Thursday’s practice was so important: it marked the beginning of a campaign of revenge. The Hilltoppers are coming off an 8-3 season.
“We had a great season, but we lost in games that really mattered,” White said. “Legacy, I think we lost [12 out of 13] for them. It’s a horrible feeling. Lost to Louisa in the first round of the playoffs [in 2021]. Just the sting of last year and how we fought and were a really good football team that couldn’t make a deep run and how we just couldn’t make it in close games I think that alone is the fuel to get us through. “
White, a rising senior who threw for 2,379 yards and 29 touchdowns last season, has been focused on football all offseason. He went to the field in Glass with a few receivers, worked on his speed on his own, practiced six or seven days a week.
“We’ve got a lot of guys looking forward to it, and it’s kind of a reward for all that hard work,” he said.
One of his teammates, running back/linebacker Taeon Mosby, joined Glass’ lacrosse team in the spring. Then, after a winter spent running indoors, it’s back to football.
“We’re a bunch of dogs,” he said of his grill team. “That’s what I like. That’s all I want to see. No other team will bother us if we’re just a bunch of dogs.”
Across town, heritage linebacker Markaz Wood smiled. “We’re excited, to be honest,” he said. “I’m ready to see what these boys can do. I was scared at first; in 7 out of 7 [this spring] it wasn’t going very well. And then I saw when they started learning and really getting into it, and that’s what I love. I love to ignite myself. It’s glorious.”
The senior who goes up has clearly lost weight. He was a state runner-up at the Class 3 State Wrestling Championships in February. Last football season, he weighed 250 pounds. It is now at 223.
“It was a big fuel for my fire,” he said. “I had a huge weight problem. I was a lot bigger.”
He now enters his senior football season with renewed focus. “I just want to do my mom good, to be honest with you,” he added. “I just want to be a good kid to my mom and make her proud.”
He stood alongside Markus White, a rising senior who will see his playing time increase in 2022 at wide receiver. White noted the young talent entering the college ranks. Heritage fires four starters on either side of the ball, but brings in plenty of others who saw plenty of playing time in last year’s 9-3 season.
Thursday was overcast and cooler, with the temperature hovering around 82 degrees. But hot and humid days will come and players will eventually have to put on protections. The excitement of the first day can fade. That’s when White said he could help send a message to his teammates.
“Just tell them it will be worth it,” he said. “Keep holding your head up high. It will get better and it will be worth it on Friday night.”
It was a smooth first day at Heritage.
“I’m very happy,” said head coach Brad Bradley. “I love the attention to detail, I love the energy, I love this group of kids. If you’ve come this far for us, then you’ve made it from January to July. It’s now time to start having fun.”
Scenes from opening day of high school football practice at EC Glass and Heritage.