Late night practice a first

Published 4:42 pm Tuesday, August 4, 2009

In my 39 years as sports editor of this fine newspaper, I thought I had covered just about everything there is to cover in the field of high school sports.

Well I was wrong.

Friday night, my dear friend Billy Simmons Jr. and I left for Centennial Field just after 11:30 p.m. to watch an event that officially got underway at 12:01 a.m.

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Saturday was the first day Georgia High School Association teams could practice in full pads.

Bearcats head coach Ed Pilcher, who led his Thomas County Central High School Yellow Jackets teams to five state championships, had told me during the week how popular an event the late night practice had been over there.

He said, while the fans did not come out in big numbers the first year, the crowds got bigger and bigger with each succeeding year.

The crowd was not extremely big the first time here over the weekend, but there was a good number of fans on hand. The scrimmage itself was very lively and hard hitting.

Throughout camp, headquartered at the Decatur County Memorial Coliseum, Pilcher talked to his team about the importance of building mental toughness.

Judging from what I saw in Saturday’s 12:01 a.m. scrimmage and throughout camp, which ended with Tuesday night’s final three-a-day scrimmage, there is no doubt in my mind that he and his coaching staff are doing just that.

The hitting has been hard and the intensity and enthusiasm have been excellent.

Four inspirational speakers talked to the young men about the importance of mental and moral toughness and having the Lord in their lives each night at camp.

The speakers were Decatur County School Superintendent Ralph Jones, who led the 1982 Bearcats and 1990 Cairo High School Syrupmakers to State Class AAA championships; Mike Hodges, who coached state championship teams at Thomasville High School and was on the staff at Georgia Southern University; Larry Green, a former All-State running back at Cairo High School and Thomas County School superintendent who played at Florida State University, and Bearcats defensive ends coach Jodie Sprenkle, who played on two state championship teams at Valdosta High School,

In a special article in today’s sports section, details of the speakers are chronicled. I enjoyed each very much.

Coach Pilcher has been impressed with the pace of the practice sessions.

“The pace is just about where we wanted it,” he told me recently.

During his year’s first spring practice with the Bearcats, the pace of workouts were not as strong and intense as he wanted them.

After this springs workouts, he told me the difference in the pace between last spring and this spring was like night and day. That upgraded pace continued in camp workouts.

I’m not going to make any predictions about the upcoming Bearcats season, but I will guarantee you one thing. After watching spring and camp practice sessions, no team will be better prepared than the Bearcats. The season will be hard hitting and exciting.