With the scorching sun beating down on Bulldog Stadium, a Forsyth Central quarterback receives a snap and turns to hand the ball off, only to find no teammate in sight. The quarterback panics, begins to scramble and is inevitably taken down in the backfield by a swarm of white jerseys.
Watching from several yards behind the line of scrimmage, one of Central’s coaches finds the running back who missed his assignment and gets in his face. Another coach jumps on top of a linebacker, praising the defender for shaking off his blocker to make the stop.
Minor chaos ensues as everyone tries to figure out what went right and what went wrong, then quickly, the players return to their huddles and prepare to run the same play again. And again.
Yes, the 2014 high school football schedule may not begin for another four months, but for the Bulldogs, the intensity is already nearing mid-season form.
Head coach Shane Williamson, who is entering his second year at Central, chose to put his team through spring practice this year, as did Coach Jeff Arnette and Coach Adam Clack of South Forsyth and West Forsyth, respectively.
The Georgia High School Association gave teams the option of running spring practice and receiving one scrimmage in the fall or resting until summer and receiving two scrimmages. For Williamson, who believes his team needs to make great strides before worrying about opponents, the decision was easy.
"We chose to have spring practice because we want to build chemistry," he said. "We’re still establishing the foundation of building a successful program, and we’re building from the ground up. We want to see improvement in blocking and tackling, and we want to look like a better football team than we were a year ago."
Of course, not every coach shares Williamson’s mindset. Pinecrest, North Forsyth and Lambert opted not to participate in spring practices for various reasons. Perhaps an extra scrimmage is more beneficial to a more veteran roster; maybe the absence of players immersed in baseball, lacrosse and soccer diminish the benefits of meeting now.
But for Williamson and his staff, this time on the field is invaluable.
"This is something big that we need," Williamson said. "Offensively, we have to find our niche. Defensively, we have to improve our tackling. This week gives us the chance to do these things.
"We’re not rushed right now … We’re not preparing for other teams, so we can work on ourselves 100 percent."
Though intensity is high, spring practice remains a low-pressure environment. There is no sense of urgency, nor is there need to get everything right. Instead, coaches have the time to instill their systems and ideas at a pace that suits the players, allowing them plenty of time to figure it all out.
That’s a luxury that won’t last very long. Another short-lived luxury is the ability to practice in pads, which won’t always be an option during camp. Until the season gets underway in the fall, this is the biggest chunk of time teams can practice in full gear.
Central is taking advantage of this opportunity by doing lots of full-contact drills. The Bulldogs have a lot to absorb before the schedule begins, and having the chance to apply much of this information should help them in the long run.
"I like our attitude and our effort right now," Williamson added. "There’s a lot of coaching going on and not a lot of sitting around. It’s easier to do it the first day when everyone’s hyped up, but we have to find some leaders to step up. That’s what we’re here for."