Change on the run – it happens.
Those words have been and continue to be key words as the Thomson Bulldogs football squad began preparing for the 2020 season
Entering the third week of practice Monday, Bulldog head coach Michael Youngblood said everyone is continuing to conform to COVID-19 rules as stipulated by the Georgia High School Association. The pandemic forced cancellation of spring practice.
On Monday, teams were allowed to add balls and blocking bags to conditioning practices, which had previously been limited to running formations, weightlifting, and running during the practices.
“We’ve been really limited to formation recognition, lining up in formation and making sure players knew assignments,” said Youngblood. “We have to make sure they are six-feet apart and just working to, as best we can, underscore what they learned last year.”
Currently, the rules allow for two groups of 50 people, including coaches. The Bulldogs have been holding two practice sessions in the mornings with close to 40 people in each group.
The first week, the rules allowed 20 people on the field, and the second week, rules allowed 25 people.
Temperatures are taken and a questionnaire is asked of each player before practicing. Each player is given a mask to wear inside the weight room.
The coach said that the equaling factor is that all teams across the state are trying to work within the mandates.
“Everybody can get creative within the guidelines to some extent, but the bottom line is safety,” said Youngblood.
“When we go outside, we work to keep social distancing and they can take the masks off,” Youngblood said.
Other changes include no watering stations and players have to bring their own water containers, and no helmets or trainers allowed at the practices.
“We are pushing the kids to get into shape, but we are being smart and we are telling them to be smart,” he said, adding that players know what they have to do to get in shape for playing on Friday nights.
On a daily basis, Youngblood said that there is a chance a change will come down from the GHSA, and plans have to be changed.
“We have to keep running and doing the best we can to be safe and to get better,” said the coach.
As far as the Bulldogs depth wise, Youngblood said size and depth are important areas.
“We are thin on offensive and defensive line,” the coach said. “We don’t have a lot of big bodies right now. Skill-wise, I feel we will be okay. We’ll have to find a way to get in front of people and stay on their hips.”
The Dogs, who were reclassified to Class AAA, have a scrimmage June 14 against Southeast Bulloch and the regular season is slated to begin June 21 hosting Jefferson County.