That’s the action Whitefield Academy football coach Jimmy Fields took in substituting spring practices for an extra scrimmage during the summer preseason.
This year, the Georgia High School Association instituted an option for schools to either hold 10 days of spring football practices, as they have in the past, or have an extra scrimmage during the preseason.
Fields chose the extra scrimmage, giving his players some extra time off. The Wolfpack will instead face Wesleyan and North Cobb Christian in the preseason.
“Looking at the options, having 10 days in May certainly could have helped, but we felt like being able to play an extra scrimmage game in preparation in August is something we can benefit more from,” Fields said. “We may switch back next year, but we certainly want to give it a go this year. It’s new, and I certainly anticipate it being a positive.
“We’re excited about having the opportunity to be able to practice in more of a game-like situation, but against someone else, for twice as much as we’ve done in the past. The best thing about it is not having to hand out all that equipment and then get it back 10 days later.”
Fields said his players also liked the idea of having the extra scrimmage. In the meantime, the players continued to perform their offseason duties, including weight-lifting and drilling on their own.
“The kids aren’t necessarily avoiding practice,” Fields said. “It’s the opportunity to compete later, even though it’s just a scrimmage. From the players’ standpoint, I think they’re looking forward to it.”
Entering his eighth season as Whitefield’s coach, Fields’ offensive system had been in place for a while, and with the return of 20 upperclassmen — including nine seniors — the need to run spring practices didn’t seem to have much value.
“Spring training seems to have changed a lot over the years, whether you’re a single-A or AAAAAA school,” Fields said. “Kids are involved in different sports and different activities, especially towards the end of the school year. You may or may not have all of your roster.
“For the last several years, a lot of coaches use spring training more as way to kick-start their summer program, whether it’s weight training, or 7-on-7, or things like that. You can still do those without actually still having spring practice with the helmets and shoulder pads.”
When preseason does come around, Fields will be looking at a talented group of players who just missed out on a state playoff berth after posting a 4-6 record. The Wolfpack finished 18th in the Class A private-school power ratings.
Twelve starters are set to return for Whitefield, including seniors Sky Dupree, Michael Hebert, Matt Olson and Bradley Davidson. Dupree is expected to play defensive back, while Hebert will work along the line of scrimmage. Davidson and Olson will also have key roles on offense and defense.
“They and the rest of the kids know the expectation is to have a great season,” Fields said. “The leadership and hard work from these guys play into that.”
Other returning starters include running backs Nile Ball and Jordan Edge, linemen Connor Caffrey, Ty McLemore and T.J. Carter, linebacker Cameron Jenkins and defensive backs Carson Brown and Ryan Wesley.
“I anticipate the kids that have been through the fire as freshmen and sophomores are now ready as juniors and seniors,” Fields said. “I think the experience will help us because now most of the roster is able to get a driver’s license. Maybe that will get us that extra point or half-point we need (in the power ratings).”