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Contact: BCHS gridiron practices add shoulder pads
It seems putting shoulder pads on the players was the ingredient Leopard coach Rance Gillespie needed for his Banks County High School football team.

Banks County's Scott Garner (L) and Hank Jones step up to make the tackle during defensive drills at the Leopards' practice Tuesday. The team will begin its camp next week with three sessions each day.

After a week of practicing in shorts and helmets, the team added shoulder pads. The added contact made for a productive session early in the week.
"We probably had the best practice we've had since I've been here," Gillespie said Tuesday. "Our pace is getting better. The guys are starting to understand some of the things we're doing. They're learning and now they're not hesitant." Gillespie hopes the intensity will pick up even more after the team puts on full pads later this week.
"Having a week in shorts was good for them last week," Gillespie said. "It gave them a chance to get acclimated to the heat. We'll put full pads on (Wednesday). Before we went all out, we wanted them to get used to wearing some of the gear a little bit."
Next week the team will run camp on the practice field.
Practice will begin at 9 a.m. with a concentration on defense. In the afternoon, a lighter practice on the kicking and passing games will take place. An evening offensive practice will begin around 5:30 p.m.
"The kids have been giving a lot of effort," Gillespie said. "It's real exciting to watch them make progress out here."
Banks County will host Dawson County and Fannin County in a jamboree Aug. 27.
The Leopards will open the regular season the following Friday at home against Jackson County.

CPRD All-Star Girls Take Second At State
The nature of a state tournament turns up the heat. Nature turned up the heat as well, but the Commerce Parks and Recreation Department all-star 11-12 girls' softball team responded with a cool performance.

The Commerce Parks and Recreation Department 11-12 girls' all-star softball team finished second in the GRPA state tournament this weekend in Dahlonega. Members of the team pictured above include (front, L-R) Lauren Lance, Deanna Brown, Stephanie Rainwater, Jett Roop and Jena Fields; (back row) coach Greg Fields, Shana Gibbs, Melissa Patrick, Brittany Whtifield, Diana Robinson, Kristen Gary, Lauren Mize and coach Clarke Rainwater.

Taking a loss in their second game Friday night, Commerce won three of four games Saturday, losing in the championship game at the GRPA state tournament in Dahlonega under the extreme heat of the sun.
"The girls played great despite the very hot conditions and having to play four straight games on Saturday," coach Clarke Rainwater said. "A lot of the games were close and our girls displayed great composure and determination in several of the games. We were proud of all 11 girls and the parental support shown."
Commerce won its district tournament last month in Dawsonville to earn a berth in the state tourney. The team continued its winning ways in the first-round game with a 9-3 victory over Gilmer County.
Glennville topped Commerce 9-2 in the second game Friday night.
However, the CPRD all-stars responded with a 13-0 win over Putnam County in their first game in the loser's bracket.
Commerce added a 10-6 win over Baxley before avenging its loss to Glennville. The CPRD team took a 7-5 win over Glennville in the loser's bracket final.
Fitzgerald edged out Commerce 9-8 in the championship game to take the win.
Stephanie Rainwater led the team with 11 hits and four walks. Lauren Mize and Diana Robinson each added 11 hits each. Lauren Lance had 10 safeties and added two walks.
Shana Gibbs had nine hits in the tournament. Jena Fields had eight hits. Brittany Whitfield had seven hits and three walks.
Kristen Gary had six hits. Melissa Patrick and Deanna Brown each added five hits.
The runner-up finish at state was the best record for a CPRD summer team. Their district title was the first for a Commerce softball or baseball team.

Back to the grind: Raider football team begins summer practice
Though the first Friday night battle for the Red Raider football team is still a good month away, the gridiron season got its unofficial start this week for the Madison County football program.

Madison County football players take a water break during the first day of summer practice Monday.

Forty Raider football players hit the practice field Monday night in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts to kick off the Madison County football team's summer practice session.
Head football coach Tom Hybl, who is entering his second season at the helm of the Red Raider program, got his squad back into the swing of things by putting the team through an approximate hour and a half long workout, running through various agility and cardiovascular drills along with hitting technique exercises and some special teams drills.
The squad, who posted a 2-8 record in Hybl's inaugural season a year ago, will have five weeks of practice to gear up for their 1999 gridiron opener against non-region foe Commerce September 3 at Red Raider Stadium.

JHS, JCCHS gearing up for football season
Finally, football season is almost here.
In just a month, the season will officially start for Jefferson and Jackson County Comprehensive high schools. Before then, Jefferson will host a football jamboree Aug. 27 with Jackson County and Loganville participating.
This week, practice in pads offically began for teams across the state. Jefferson started practicing last Monday, when practice with helmets only began. Jackson County started last Wednesday.
Jefferson head coach Bob Gurley said last week he was worried about the heat when practicing in full pads.
"If temperatures stay in the high 90s, we aren't going to be ready to go into pads in the afternoon," he said. "If it's in the lower 90s with a lower humidity, we can go ahead and do it."
Luckily, the mercury has fallen to the upper 80s and low 90s.
This year, the Jefferson school system has implemented a new schedule that moves the start of school to this Friday. The schedule will cut out two weeks worth of morning and afternoon football practices.
"It's going to cut into our preparation time," Gurley said. "We are still going to get in the same material, we just won't have the same amount of time to work on it."
The Jackson County schedule has not changed. Right now, the Panthers are practicing three times a day Monday through Wednesday and twice on Thursday and Friday. That schedule will continue through the beginning of school on Aug. 20.
Jackson County will hold registration for all freshman football players on Aug. 16 at 2 p.m. Head coach Greg Lowe said freshman should pick up a physical form from the front office before then.
Jackson County's first game will be Sept. 3 at Banks County. Jefferson will host Glascock County in their first game of the season Sept. 3.

From The Sideline
Smaller Schools Need Drill Option
Drew Brantley
Football in Class A is different from football in larger schools. Schools with higher enrollments can have as many as three times the number of players. That makes sense. If a school has more students, it should have more football players.
Most Class A teams have around 30 team members. Every coach would like to have 100 kids on the squad, but that number is enough to get through the regular season and into the playoffs.
But smaller schools are at a disadvantage before the season starts. When smaller schools practice, most do not have 22 players who are potential starters. Many starters on offense are also starters on defense. And even if they don't start, most of the players end up playing a good portion of the game on both sides of the ball.
At larger schools, most players play just one position. When they practice, the starting offense can go against the starting defense. It gives the teams a better idea of what they can do.
Class A starters must practice against a group of players, most of whom will not play much during varsity games. Those players who practice as the "other" team are often called the scout team.
For smaller schools, the scout team is usually a collection of younger players who are a year away from seeing serious playing time.
They cannot provide the kind of competition that would best prepare a football team. They are also more likely to get hurt while playing against the starters.
It would seem to make a lot of sense, both for safety and better football, if schools were allowed to practice against other schools. Even if it were only in the preseason practice, teams could get ready for the season by using someone else's players.
Working against another school would help improve not only simulated game practices, but also position drills. A good offensive lineman could have the chance to go against some other team's good defensive player. The players' being on the same skill level would help them get better than the current system, while limiting mismatches that might cause injury.
Having better competition in the smaller groups is probably more important than trying to simulate a game.
Even if schools were limited to one practice per week in the summer, they could benefit greatly. Teams could gather at one school or the other on a Friday morning. The two squads could spend time doing drills and scrimmaging and then go home. That would work out to three inter-school practices. That is not such an inconvenience. If every team is allowed to do it, no team could gain an added advantage through the two-school practices.
I am fairly certain that most coaches would be willing to give up spring practice in exchange for some concessions on preseason practice.
There would be no reason not to allow the larger schools to do it also, but it would be the most benefit to the smaller schools.
Coaches who did not want to participate would not have to. As with jamborees, there is not requirement to participate. Schools choose who they will play against.
I think the GHSA should consider making changes to allow schools, especially the smaller schools, to have practice time against other schools.

Drew Brantley is the sports editor for The Commerce News and The Banks County News. Email Drew Brantley


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