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Prep players hit the field

HS football
Aug. 06, 2013 @ 12:11 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Depending on the state, high school football in the Tri-State is in various stages.

West Virginia schools held their first practices Monday for the 2013 season. Many Ohio schools started Thursday. Kentucky schools began July 22, making Monday the start of their third week.

"They were jacked, whooping and hollering," Huntington High coach Billy Seals said of his Highlanders who launched their season with a midnight special under the lights at Bob Sang Stadium. Seals had his team back out Monday at 4 p.m.

"We're way ahead," said Seals, who's in his fifth season. "We put in three new formations somewhat and they took right to it."

Players start out in helmets, shorts and jerseys. Shoulder pads come on later and eventually full gear followed by full contact. Schools will have two to three scrimmages as well to prepare for the regular season. Kentucky starts Aug. 23-24. West Virginia and Ohio schools follow one week later.

Before practice started, players spent time in the weight room and off-season conditioning. Coaches get to measure their progress when camp starts.

"You want to be crisp when we go full speed on (pass) routes and defensive assignments," Seals said. "It's all about execution."

The Highlanders finished 9-3 in 2012. They lost at home to Morgantown in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs.

"We got a taste," Seals said. "We want to take that next step."

In Ohio, Chesapeake players and coaches are no longer vagabonds. A new stadium with field turf has replaced the old grass turf last used in 2011. The Panthers played all their 2012 games on the road. Their first official practice on the new turf was Thursday.

"They're excited," Chesapeake coach Andy Clark said. "No more road warriors."

Counting scrimmages, Clark said the Panthers made 13 bus trips in 2012.

Mark McMillian, a two-day lineman for the Panthers, is a senior and gets to go out in style.

"We can relax. No more bus rides," he said. "It'll be great for the fans. Crowds ought to be big and that means excitement."

The turf helps out with speed, but can be trying when it's warm.

"I feel faster," McMillian said. "The heat ... we've been through it."

Hayden Straight, another two-day lineman, and linebacker Taze Sites said they enjoy romping around on the new turf.

"Awesome. We finally have a field," Straight said. "There was a lot of anticipation while it was being built. We couldn't wait to get on it."

"We've been the enemy," Sites said of being the road team all 2012. "No home-field advantage. We've got it back."