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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Wetumpka’s Stone Minnifield is expected to spend some time in the backfield this season.

If you drove past a football field Monday morning, it probably did not look too different than a normal summer workout. Players were still in T-shirts and shorts and there wasn’t much contact happening.

However, for the players and coaches who took the field, this week felt much different than just another summer workout. The realization the season’s first game week is just three weeks away is starting to sink in.

“This is like the real deal,” Holtville coach Jason Franklin said. “It’s time to get truly prepared for the season.”

Practices became mandatory this week as teams are running out of time to get ready for Week 0. The shift from summer workouts to the first day of fall camp is more about mentality than changing up what is being worked on.

“This just marks the beginning of the season and they responded to it,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “The energy was there and they bounced around in practice a lot better. We’re practicing as if we were in pads so we will be ready once those go on next week.”

The biggest focus of having an extra week of preseason camp this year will be for coaches to get a better evaluation of the players they have to work with. Without having a spring period to work from, there are still plenty of question marks on every team’s depth chart.

Perry said Wetumpka is rotating players in every position across the field to get a better look at each player’s skill set but it’s also about building extra depth to prepare for the season. 

“Unlike other years, you may only want to focus on two guys at quarterback,” Perry said. “To prepare for the season we are under right now, we have to make sure we are not caught shorthanded in any way. If there is a situation where we have some guys out, hopefully it doesn’t affect us in the worst way possible.”

Wetumpka is not the only team trying to prepare for every possible scenario but there is a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time before the first games.

“Everybody is in scramble mode,” Franklin said. “We are trying to play catchup and trying to make up for the strength we have lost. It still feels like we’re two months behind on that. And we’re trying to get in everything we can for that first game. We have to be prepared as much as we can for that first game because it may be the only one we get.”

Coaches are doing their best to get as much game plan and strategy in as possible during a short amount of time. Players will have a shorter amount of time to get used to new calls and schemes and the challenge will be getting up to full speed by the first game. 

“We’re trying to get as much installed as we can and get the practice tempo up,” Perry said. “We want to get that acclimated while we’re still in T-shirts and shorts so when we do get them in pads, we have them mentally and physically prepared for how we want to practice.”

Coaches are still trying to stay positive though and are happy to have a season to get ready for. Elmore County held a coaches-only meeting Monday instead of taking the field to make sure they were all prepared for fall camp once players arrived but they were excited to get everyone back together on the field again Tuesday afternoon.

“It has been a wild year but we’re really excited to get back with these kids,” ECHS coach Jordan Cantrell said. “We know there is a lot of work to be done too from a technical standpoint and a conditioning standpoint. It is different because this is football practice. We should be excited about it because we’re fortunate right now to be able to go and play together.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.