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High school football practice opens for most Peninsula and Bay Rivers district …

With the first day of August came the first day of high school football practice for 13 of the 20 Peninsula and Bay Rivers district schools as teams opened camp to prepare for the coming season.

Players showed up to their team facilities on Thursday to receive their equipment, ready to begin the 2013 season. The other seven teams from the two districts officially will start football activities Monday.

Coaches from both leagues spoke about the importance of starting camp with a positive attitude for both the players and coaches.

“As coaches, we just want to see guys that bring enthusiasm and a willingness to get better every day,” York head coach Doug Pereira said.

Players had to fight through intermittent rain throughout the day to sustain that enthusiasm.

For some teams, the first day of practice began early Thursday morning, as the first of two daily practice sessions, known as “two-a-days.” Phoebus head coach Jeremy Blunt said that for his players it makes more sense to have separate practices to help them recover in time for the afternoon session.

“At Phoebus, that’s always how we have done it,” Blunt said. “We get them here early, and then let them go home, eat something, rest up, and then come back ready to go.”

Some of the other coaches said that one extended practice in the afternoon suits their teams better because it allows the players and coaches more flexibility with their morning schedules.

“Because most of our coaches and players have jobs, it’s hard for us to bring them out here twice a day,” Pereira said. “The heat also plays a factor in that, as well.”

The Virginia High School League recommends that teams stop practicing outdoors if the temperature exceeds 95 degrees, which makes it difficult for practices to be scheduled during the hot, humid days typical for August.

From hot and sunny days to sporadic thunderstorms, all coaches have to prepare for a wide range of weather in Hampton Roads.

“We just have to take care of things that we can take care of,” said Woodside head coach Danny Dodson. “When it comes to the weather, we can’t control it, so we just have to adjust and make the most of it.”

A majority of the players have become accustomed to the hot weather after a summer full of offseason workouts and 7-on-7 tournaments. For Menchville players, they have used the past five weeks to get used to both the weather and a new coach, after Glenn Tidwell was hired in June.

“The last five weeks the guys have spent lifting weights and conditioning themselves to prepare for this season,” Tidwell said. “Ever since I arrived here, the guys have gotten stronger and faster, showing a hunger to get better.”

For the Lafayette Rams, it is not a new coach that they will be getting accustomed to, but rather the high expectations that come with their No. 7 ranking in the VHSL state Class 3A preseason ranking. After posting a 9-2 record and sharing the Bay Rivers District title last year, the Rams’ head coach Andy Linn said that his team is grounded, but has high hopes for this season.

“I always tell my team that ‘preseason rankings are kind of like blind dates,'” Linn said. “They know that the rankings don’t mean anything unless they go out and prove they are worth it on the field. That ranking is just a target on our backs, and we know we are going to get everyone’s best game.”

The ranking is a part of the new realignment of Virginia high school sports that will not impact regular season games in 2013, but will be a change in the playoff system from previous years. Most of the coaches agreed that their preparation will not be affected by realignment, and that the primary focus will be on the regular season.

“Our focus is on our team,” Blunt said. “All we can do is iron out our weaknesses and play the schedule that we have in front of us.”

The season opens for some teams Aug. 23. Phoebus hosts DeMatha at 6 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.

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