Local teams hit the field for first time

Published 11:41 am Monday, August 1, 2011

Balls were booming off the foot of Devon Bell, one of the nation’s leading punters, early this morning at Warren Central.

The sound was akin to the gun going off at the start of a 4-month-long race.

This morning was the first day teams in the Mississippi High School Activities Association could practice. Players from Warren Central, Vicksburg High and St. Aloysius all hit the field at 6 to begin a season they hope will end with a championship in December.

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While Warren Central’s players worked on special teams, the St. Aloysius Flashes worked on their defense. At Vicksburg, veteran coach Alonzo Stevens began his 11th season with the Gators. He got off to a loud start, barking out orders to his linemen.

“I’ve been screaming all morning,” Stevens said with a laugh.

Today will be the only day both Warren Central and Vicksburg can have two practices in the same day until Saturday. The Vicksburg Warren School district begins teachers meetings on Tuesday.

Stevens was drilling his linemen in order to get in shape for full pad work by Friday. He had about 60 players in all for the first day.

The Gators open their season on Aug. 19 against Brandon in the Red Carpet Bowl at Viking Stadium.

“We’ll be able to put on shoulder pads on Thursday and then full gear for Friday,” Stevens said. “By late Saturday afternoon we’ll do about a half scrimmage. The big one will be the next Saturday.”

Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said 70 players reported for this morning’s workout. He added that spring practice and the summer program helped the team work on fundamentals, allowing the first two weeks of fall practice to have a different emphasis.

“We’ll be doing more offensive and defensive work,” Morgan said. “We did a lot of the fundamentals back in the spring. We felt pretty good about where we are personnel wise. It’s now about getting down our schemes, and like you see here with Devon punting, we’re working on our special teams.”

Morgan said the basic plan after today would be for the Vikings to have meetings in the morning, lift weights and then be on the field for a two-hour practice at 5 p.m. The Vikings open their season Aug. 19 in the Red Carpet Bowl against Pearl at Viking Stadium.

At St. Al, coach B.J. Smithhart will have two-a-days all week in preparation for an Aug. 12 scrimmage at Trinity in Natchez.

“We’ll go at 6 in the morning and 6 in the evening and our junior high will report today for a 3 p.m. practice,” Smithhart said.

The Flashes had 25 players report for the first varsity practice.

“We did well in our offseason program with about 85 to 90 percent participation,” Smithhart said. “But we’re going to make this a tough week of practice and then use the second week as a means to get ready for the scrimmage at Trinity.”

St. Al opens the regular season on Aug. 19 at home against Madison-St. Joseph.