County teams back on the gridiron

Lenoir City High School’s Matthew Gray carries the ball Monday during practice.

The dead period is officially over, which means football teams across the state are hitting the practice fields to prepare for upcoming camps and preseason scrimmages.

The Lenoir City High School Panthers practiced for the first time in two weeks Monday morning.

“It was a good day,” Jeff Cortez, LCHS head football coach, said. “I thought this morning was pretty good weather for us, too. Some of the boys haven’t been up that early in a while, so there’s that transition of shaking the rust off. Of course, we got right into running, so we found out quickly who might have ‘enjoyed’ the time off a little bit more than others. All in all, the weight room went well and on-the-field went well, so it was a good day to get back at it.”

The Loudon High School Redskins also took to the practice field Monday morning, where head football coach Jeff Harig was not as pleased with his team’s response.

“Well, it was not so good,” he said. “The dead period, I think ... once again, it’s a two-week break and you’ve got some of them that are utilizing that time, but as one of them said, ‘I did run, but it wasn’t at this sort of intensity.’ I think with the heat being what it is now, it wasn’t that way for the entire four weeks prior to the dead period. In the break, we had a lot of guys struggle.”

Harig noticed the week following the dead period is usually the toughest for teams.

“It’s a process we’ve got to go through,” he said. “We’ve got three weeks until we can be in full pads, so that’s kind of our focus right now is to get our conditioning to where we can utilize that full pad time to its fullest so that we’re not worried about conditioning three weeks from now. It’s time to be more football-oriented, so we’ll transition from less agility time to more position-specific drills. We’ll be running pass routes, we’ll be working on the offensive lineman’s first three steps and things like that.”

Each offseason following the dead period, Cortez and staff perform a fitness test on every player.

“We had this kind of calendar a number of years ago,” he said. “We got one more week in July before full pads and all that, so our fitness test would actually hit the exact same time as it would’ve last year. It’ll be two weeks before our actual fall camp, so they get a week of getting their legs under them. They’ll get two 7-on-7s, they’ll get four practices, four weight lifting and four conditioning days before their big test.”

The Redskins are set to return a majority of last year’s team, but have dealt with an attendance issue so far this summer.

“There are players who played a big role for us last year who I did not see today — weren’t there at practice,” Harig said. “To say that I’m not pleased with our commitment level would probably not be accurate, simply because we have had guys that have been committed. But there’s some kids that played a role for us last year that have not committed to us this summer and will not play a bigger role this year for us.”

Both teams, along with Greenback, are set to compete Saturday in a 7-on-7 passing camp at Anderson County High School.

The Panthers will also host a 7-on-7 camp today, July 17 and July 24.

“Every year, the Wednesdays in July, we do 7-on-7s at our place,” Cortez said. “This year, we’re going to host three of those with different schools every week, so that’s always fun. It’s just good to see a lot of those coaches. A lot of those guys we bring in are guys that we like, we work well with and everyone respects each other. There’s never any problems and it’s always fun.”