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Lizi Arbogast / The Herald Edgewood football players have their first day of official practice Thursday.

With only shorts and helmets allowed the first two days of AISA football practice, Edgewood uses that time to really evaluate where its players are at.

The Wildcats opened practice Thursday when they held both a morning practice and a night practice, and with a focus on fundamentals, Edgewood coach Darryl Free wanted to concentrate on getting his players back in the mindset of playing football every day.

“In our system, we don’t hit very much anyway,” Free said. “We can do a lot of fundamental hip placement, hand placement and head placement without pads and teach them technique before we put the pads on. So I actually enjoy these first couple practices like this. It slows them down, gets them back into the swing of things. To me, it’s kind of a nice safety net for us.”

The Wildcats did everything from individual drills to running plays and working on formations the first day of practice but having a couple of days before getting back into full pads was sort of like an extension of the summer workouts.

Free is now in his second year as head coach of the Wildcats, and it was important to him to see how much of what he taught last year was going to carry over into Year 2.

“We’ll spend a lot of this time doing fundamentals first and then seeing what they’ve retained information wise in the system second,” Free said. “This is a learning phase for us coaches and it’s a learning phase for the players. We want to see what we’ve got here and what information they’ve retained.

“That kind of gives us an idea of where we want to begin but we always start with fundamentals.” 

AISA teams spend a lot of time conditioning throughout the summer and are a bit more limited than AHSAA teams in terms of what they can do, so despite the first day of practice being only shorts and helmets, there was definitely a different feeling in the air.

“During the summer, all we can really do is condition,” Free said. “To be able to get out here on the field and get out here and really practice, it just kind of tells you that A) school is back which they might not be so happy about that, but B) it’s football season. Now they know that Friday nights will be here before we know it. They’re in sight now.”

Edgewood was one of the few local teams that did a true two-a-day schedule on the first day, and although Free could see some fatigue in his players, he was happy with the energy the Wildcats exuded on Day 1.

“This is practice No. 2 for us (Thursday night) so they’re a little sluggish right now to say the least,” Free said. “But we had a good morning practice and we’ve had a good practice (Thursday night). They’re retained a lot of information from the morning session and we expect it to only get better and better.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.