By Greg Ford
High school football practice gets into full swing this week.
Some teams have already been working out for more than a week. However, for those who went through spring practice, they had to wait until Aug. 11 before hitting the field.
They only will be allowed to wear helmets through Thursday before being allowed to put on pads this Friday, two weeks before the season opener for most of the schools.
Among these schools getting back to work this week are Wylie East, Wylie, Plano East and Sachse.
The Raiders enter 2014 loaded with young talent, primarily sophomores and juniors. During the first four days of practice, they’ll be in shorts, shirts and helmets.
Once they put on the pads this Friday, the Raiders will have a little more than a week to prepare for the Aug. 22 scrimmage at Frisco Heritage.
The Raiders return several talented players, including running backs Aubrey White and Eno Benjamin and receiver Jared Wyatt, but they must find a replacement for graduated Garrett McCain at quarterback.
“It’s more about making sure for us that the kids are in condition,” head coach Joe Lepsis said. “We usually take care of that with our strength and conditioning program. (About) 95 percent of our kids who play football go through it, so that’s usually a non-factor.”
He added, “During shorts and T-shirts, it’s about mental reps more than anything. You get those mental reps in and then when pads come on Friday, everything changes.”
The Pirates’ preseason practice will focus on four things: chemistry, conditioning, game planning for the season opener against Sachse and evaluations to see who will move up to varsity.
“We had a good spring ball,” head coach Bill Howard said. “They learned a lot, and hopefully they retained a lot. The retention level is important, and we have a lot of guys coming back who have a high retention level. We have a lot of starters coming back.”
Wylie, which won three playoff games last season before falling to Highland Park in the Region II final, will have one scrimmage this preseason; Friday, Aug. 22 at Jesuit.
They will then host Sachse — the Mustangs have beaten them three straight times — on Friday, Aug. 29, where the Pirates hope to gain a measure of revenge.
The Mustangs will attempt to pick up where they left off this past spring, when they began filling holes created by graduation.
They’ll open 2014 play at Wylie against a team of talented Pirates, which will be seeking vengeance after three straight season-opening losses to the Mustangs.
“We want to see the development of our quarterback (Brett Cox); he had a really good summer (7-on-7),” head coach Mark Behrens said. “Defensively, we’ve got a lot of question marks, but they’re good question marks. We feel like we’ve got some kids who had good springs … A lot of these young kids who are going to have a chance to start on the defensive side. We have high expectation for (them).”
The Panthers enter the preseason with their third head coach in one year: Johnny Ringo left before spring practice in 2013, Randy Jackson took over and coached the 2013 season and now East graduate Joey McCullough takes over.
The Panthers began Monday morning in helmets and shorts and, like other teams, will begin contact drills Friday.
Practice time, McCullough said, will be divided up so that varsity defense and JV offense will be emphasized during one hour and then the reverse in the other hour.
“That will allow (two-way players) to play both,” McCullough said. “We’ve got some guys who can help us on both sides of the ball. To be honest with you, we have got a bunch of young players on our JV. They’re really good players, and we’re giving equal time to those guys right now, because they are the future.”
PESH has a little less than two weeks before it faces competition, which will come in the form of Arlington Bowie during an Aug. 22 scrimmage at Kimbrough Stadium. The Aug. 29 season opener at Lake Highlands will follow that.