published Saturday, March 29th, 2014

To practice or not: Georgia prep coaches must choose

Georgia high school football coaches long have lamented the fact that they are allowed just one preseason scrimmage to prepare for the season. Beginning this year they have the option to add another, but it comes with a price.

Programs electing to add the second scrimmage must give up spring practice, according to the GHSA, something most area coaches aren't willing to do.

"It's a tough situation because I can't see giving up 10 days of practice for one scrimmage," Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said. "I would rather have my 10 days, though I would be willing to give up spring if they did away with it across the board."

Ridgeland's Mark Mariakis agrees with Lamb that with 100-plus players in the program he needs as much time as possible to get them work.

"I couldn't justify giving up 10 days in pads for a two-hour scrimmage, where maybe one of those hours is first team versus first team," Mariakis said. "Going through spring gives us a better look at what we can expect in the fall."

One program that is taking the GHSA up on the offer is Ringgold. Coach Robert Akins believes a combination of things makes it the right decision for the Tigers.

"I'm very thankful the GHSA is allowing this," Akins said. "Most of our skill people are playing baseball and we wouldn't have them out anyway, so we couldn't work on timing. Also, we have several kids playing AAU basketball, so combined with summer baseball it has a dramatic effect on us."

The Tigers are set to scrimmage Ooltewah and Gilmer County, two 2013 playoff teams that will, Akins believes, provide good measuring sticks.

"I believe scrimmaging those two teams will give us a better indication of where we are," he said. "I also believe the extra scrimmage will help our players better acclimate to the heat, which is always a big issue. They have been doing the same thing in Texas, and the coaches I talk to love it."

Some programs, like Trion, will make the decision each season based on the makeup of the team, said coach Justin Brown.

"The main reason we're going to have spring practice is that we've got to replace our entire offensive line and our quarterback," Brown said. "For us it's better to be able to have our hands on them this spring instead of waiting until August."

Of course, the coaches would prefer to have the extra scrimmage and be able to keep spring practice.

"I would love to do both, like Tennessee does," Mariakis said. "I guess this is a step in the right direction, but if we could add the second scrimmage it would better prepare us for the season and get the kids acclimated to the heat. Maybe that's where we're headed."

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6296.

about Lindsey Young...

Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...

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