It’s hard to believe the season is only two weeks away. I remember when I first put that football countdown on the top of the Outlook sports pages season, there were nearly 80 days left. Now, we’re doing to 14.
It’s pretty hard to believe. Being a sports editor, I sort of feel like I’m part of this journey with our student-athletes. I was there just getting to know their teams when spring practice started then I learned more and more about them over the summer. Now I’ve spent hours upon hours on the practice fields with them this week.
I don’t know about the guys in the pads, but I’m even dreaming about football these days.
And while our coverage is going to continue to ramp up over the next few weeks, including in-depth previews in our Gridiron Guides, restarting several video series, posting photo galleries and much, much more, we’ve added something new to our plates this year.
Sports writer Caleb Turrentine and I are always looking for new and different ways to bring you the news. Whether you’re someone who likes to watch videos, read stories or just look through photos, we want to give you what you’re looking for. So this summer we started Inside the Lines Podcast, where we’re talking all things high school sports. We’ve focused on hot-button topics that have affected our area teams, and it’s been a blast to sit down with coaches and players from around the area to get their thoughts on subjects we love to debate about.
This week though we’ve really ramped up the podcast coverage with previews for each of our local teams across Tallapoosa, Coosa and Elmore counties. Every weekday leading up to the football season, we’ll have focus on one team and discuss our expectations and what fans should look out for this season.
With nearly every team, we’ll also sit down with either a coach or a player and get their perspectives on the upcoming season. We began earlier this week with Edgewood coach Darryl Free and got a chance to talk to him about what it’s like to have high expectations. The Wildcats are ranked No. 11 in AISA in the Alabama Sports Writers Association preseason poll after advancing to the AA semifinals a year ago.
“Last year is over; that’s one thing we’ve tried to tell these guys,” Free said. “We did have some success but with some success, we also have an X on our back now. We’re not going to surprise anybody. They know what we’ve got and it’s going to take more focus from us and more discipline, especially mentally. We think our guys are ready for that.”
On Wednesday’s podcast, I had the opportunity to chat with Eric Shaw, the highly recruited Reeltown Rebel who is returning from an ACL injury. Shaw said he’s back at 100 percent and when I spoke to him Monday, he was itching to get on the practice field for Reeltown’s first official practice.
Shaw, who is a proven leader on the team, also gave us some insight into some of the young guys fans should watch out for this season.
“We got a receiver named Johnny Brown; he’s been putting in work,” Shaw said. “Scooter Broos is another breakout. We’ve got Iverson Hooks; he couldn’t play last year because of an ACL. We have a lot of young talent that I feel like this year is going to be their breakout.”
Shaw and Hooks weren’t the only two Rebels who struggled with injuries a season ago, and it was nice for me to hear Shaw talk about some of the changes Reeltown has made during its offseason workouts in attempt to limit some of those injuries.
“We’ve been doing a lot more injury prevention stuff,” he said. “We’ve done more hamstring and quads, everything like that to keep everything strong and in balance. That’s really where all the injuries came from because we were really overworked and overdid stuff, but now we’re doing more stretching with it so it’ll balance it out more.”
Today will be the release of the Horseshoe Bend preview podcast with an interview with first-year head coach Jeremy Phillips then we’ll wrap up the week by discussing Central Coosa before moving back to Elmore County next week.
The remaining schedule is as follows:
Thursday, Aug. 8 — Horseshoe Bend Generals preview
Friday, Aug. 9 — Central Coosa Cougars preview
Monday, Aug. 12 — Holtville Bulldogs preview
Tuesday, Aug. 13 — Elmore County Panthers preview
Wednesday, Aug. 14 —Dadeville Tigers preview
Thursday, Aug. 15 — Tallassee Tigers preview
Friday, Aug. 16 — Stanhope Elmore Mustangs preview
Monday, Aug. 19 — Wetumpka Indians preview
Tuesday, Aug. 20 — Benjamin Russell Wildcats preview
That will lead us directly into our Week 0 preview which will be released Wednesday, Aug. 21 in conjunction with our Gridiron Guides.
To listen to the full interviews with Free and Shaw and the rest of the preview podcasts, visit us online. We are also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you have any questions for us or special guests, feel free to reach out and we’ll get those answered for you as well.