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Pigskin practices pick up
practice 1 new coach jd
With other members of the South Forsyth High School football team watching, War Eagle Coach Wendell Early directs sophmore Brett Charron (35) before he runs a drill. Practice has begun in preparation for the 2008 season, which begins Aug. 29. - photo by Jim Dean (previous profile)

Less than four weeks from kickoff, Forsyth’s gridiron gladiators are back in action.

Friday marked the first day the state allowed teams to practice in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. On Wednesday, teams can start practicing in full pads.

“We don’t plan to ease in at all. We have worked hard all summer and plan to continue with it,” first-year South Forsyth coach Wendell Early said, noting that the team had just returned from a camp Thursday.

Because of that, the War Eagles called off a Friday morning practice, but were on the field by afternoon.

“We are doing well, but have a long way to go.  We are excited to get into pads,” Early said. “Of course, all summer is spent in t-shirts, so the kids are anxious too.”

South was also planning a Football 101 session for Friday night, to help football moms get to know the game and team better.

“We are billing this as an opportunity for moms to ask stupid questions and get to know our new coach,” said Kellee Lively, secretary of the South Touchdown Club.

South kicks off the season Aug. 29 at Alpharetta, the first of two non-region games before stepping into Region 7-AAAAA play.

Forsyth Central was looking to beat the heat, and dodge potential afternoon thunderstorms, by taking the field Friday morning.

The coming week will bring a full practice schedule, coach Chris Bennett said.

Bennett said the Bulldogs have had excellent attendance at voluntary weight training and conditioning sessions during the summer, and credited strength coach Jim Bishop for keeping the team in good condition.

Central drops to Region 6-AAAA this season, and will open Aug. 29 with a non-region trip to Peachtree City to face McIntosh.

Forsyth’s other two public high schools are on a collision course to start the year, as West Forsyth will head to Coal Mountain to meet North Forsyth in a non-region showdown Aug. 29.

For the Wolverines, it will be the first varsity game in school history, after the team went 9-1 playing a junior varsity schedule in 2007.

This year, the team will be plunged into a full-fledged Region 7-AAA schedule.

“It was good to get the guys back out on the practice field. We had a good first day,” West coach Frank Hepler said Friday.

Hepler said over 150 players showed up for the morning session, as the team focused on reviewing basics on offense, defense and special teams.

For North, this marks the Raiders’ third season in Region 7-AAAAA.

Coach Jared Zito said the team planned to hit the field at 5 p.m. Friday, to allow everyone — including incoming freshmen — to attend.

“We feel that we have worked hard all summer, so really, starting practice will be a review of things we worked on all summer in 7-on-7 tournaments and field days. We will raise our expectations of their execution and performance as practice begins tomorrow,” Zito said.

“We are excited and ready to make improvements every day so we can be the best team we possibly can be. Our goal is to be a first-class program that everyone can be proud of both on and off the field.”

While it’s not quite Friday night lights, getting onto the practice field after a few months away is a great feeling, said Central coach Bennett.

“Obviously, we are very excited to actually get back into football. The offseason program is extremely important, but there is nothing like putting on the pads,” Bennett said.