Practice, opportunity await area teams
Of the nearly 100 high school football programs that compete in the Central District, only Grandview, Hartley, Hilliard Davidson, Johnstown, Jonathan Alder, Marion-Franklin and Marion Pleasant made it through the 2011 regular season with perfect records.
Next week, the quest for perfection begins again.
Although the regular season doesn't start for most teams until Aug. 24, the first day of official coaching allowed by the OHSAA is Monday, July 30.
For most, that means two -- or sometimes three -- weeks of a two-a-day practice schedule, with teams allowed to participate in scrimmages from Aug. 7-20.
Davidson has had five perfect regular seasons since 2001, including 2006 when it went 15-0 and captured the Division I state title. The Wildcats begin the process of perfecting their system as soon as official coaching starts, according to coach Brian White.
"Two-a-days are just an opportunity to start fresh with a new group of kids," he said. "What we try to do early is install our offensive and defensive philosophies and do some drilling in our techniques in two-a-days. We have the drills already installed when we get to the first day of two-a-days, and then we try to perfect those drills."
Tim Brown, who is entering his 10th season as Groveport's coach, believes the early days of fall practice must be chock-full of repetition.
"With the 10 days in the summer that we get, you can work on a lot of stuff, and that's made it easier," he said. "We just finished up with a 7-on-7 (passing tournament), and a lot of the brain work is done early. During two-a-days you can really work on technique. You get to make sure they understand the toughness that they're going to need."
During the summer, Gahanna has done everything from 7-on-7 passing tournaments to even having a local yoga studio come in to help players improve their flexibility.
Lions coach John Snoad and his staff also have spent time setting up much of the program's offensive and defensive systems.
"The summer has been more for installing what we want to run," Snoad said. "Once you get past the summer, we work on some of the finer points. We do a lot of memorizing and repetition in that time. The second week of two-a-days we teach a lot about contact and hitting and tackling, and you're always trying to find the right kids."
Columbus City League programs sometimes face obstacles during early two-a-day practices because many of the freshmen are competing in the sport on a team for the first time.
Centennial, according to first-year coach Mark Shaffer, also deals with having many of its players traveling to practice by bus.
"It sometimes takes these kids an hour to an hour and a half to get here on the bus, so it's understandably hard for them to always make it on time," Shaffer said. "But I've been pleased with our conditioning and with our camps so far."
Shaffer is among four new coaches of City League programs and one of nine new coaches of teams in the ThisWeek coverage area.
Whitehall's new coach, Jake Kuhner, served as an assistant for two years at his alma mater, Pickerington Central, and assisted last year under former Rams coach Greg Lahr.
He has spent his first summer as coach installing a defensive system that includes some new terminology, as well as a no-huddle offense.
Kuhner is looking forward to combining his ideas with some from a year ago that helped the Rams post their first winning season since 2003.
"Two-a-days are about getting the kids geared up and getting stuff installed, but we still want to keep things fresh," he said. "We want them to see what it's like in regular practice because it is pretty tough sometimes."