Squads adapt to abbreviated two-a-day routines

Photos by Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper senior tight end Philip Huebschman crouched, ready to run a sled drill during an evening practice Monday at the practice field adjacent to Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium. With the IHSAA’s sports calendar being pushed back a week this year, many schools, including Jasper and Forest Park, have been limited in the number of two-a-day practices each’s football team completes.

Herald Sports Writer

With all the work that local prep football teams put in through the year with strength and conditioning programs and 7-on-7 drills, the term “offseason” has become somewhat obsolete over the years.

That’s why the reduction in the number of two-a-day practices some local squads are allowed this year hasn’t led to any alarm. In previous years, teams endured two-a-day practices for up to a week and a half. This season, Jasper and Forest Park are limited to just a handful of such practices since this is the year the IHSAA’s sports calendar gets pushed back a week and these schools are starting classes a week earlier than in the past. Jasper and Forest Park, which both began classes Aug. 14 last year, resume classes Thursday.

Southridge begins school Thursday also, the same time the Raiders started last year. Heritage Hills, meanwhile, begins Aug. 14, removing only two of the Patriots’ two-a-day sessions.

A year ago, teams held their first two-a-day practice July 30; this year it was Aug. 5. Teams have adjusted accordingly.

At Southridge, athletic director Brett Bardwell understands the change and doesn’t see a problem; the Raiders will have a pair of two-a-day practices before school starts. Bardwell noted that many athletes now train year-round, as opposed to 10 or 15 years ago when the first time a football player might have gone through a workout was the first two-a-day practice.

Before, there was a worry that an out-of-shape player might be adversely impacted by being pushed too hard, too soon. Bardwell still calls this time of year “nerve-racking,” though more prepared players cut down on the stress.

From left, Jasper seniors Landon Jeffers, Scott Stallwood and Nick Hale, sophomore Cal Kruger and junior Austin Schmidt sprinted across the practice field Monday.

“When the season comes around, they’re ready anyway and I just don’t think it’s a big a deal,” Bardwell said. They’re so far ahead by now at the end of the summer than they used to be and they’ve got everything in. I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal. I think it’s going to be about the same for everybody. As an athletic director, I like the fact that we’re kind of avoiding that danger time of the year.”

First-year Raider coach Scott Buening isn’t making many adjustments to try to overcompensate for the lack of workouts. The team worked out four days a week during the summer, and for the most part the Raiders look sharp within their base offense and defense, Buening said, so the major work is already in motion. Buening said the Raiders extended a few of their early practices, with the only quasi-concern centering on his ability to jell with his new team.

“Anytime you go through the first (anything), it’s always a little bit different,” Buening said. “What was a concern was getting to know the kids and spending time (together).”

Jasper seniors, from left, Neil Rose, Scott Stallwood, Moises Valenciano, Spencer Otto, Zach Wood, Courtland Betz and Nick Hale gave words of encouragement to their teammates at the end of the evening practice on Monday.

Forest Park will have three two-a-day practices this week, with coach Ross Fuhs switching things up. Usually, he said, the team concentrates on basics and fundamentals of playing on the offensive line and in the backfield but he felt the need to install components that typically wouldn’t be discussed until after two-a-days.

“I felt like we had to put in more schemes and a few more plays in than normal, to keep up with practice starting sooner,” Fuhs said.

Fuhs noted this change was particularly challenging for the freshmen. He remembered feeling a bit out of place during his high school practices as a freshman for Southridge, and he told the Ranger first-year players they probably were feeling lost but that it’d be all right. There will be time ahead to figure things out and more than anything, the coaches want to make sure they stay ahead of the curve.

Heritage Hills, meanwhile, loses only a pair of practices as the school corporation starts a week later than the three Dubois County schools with football squads. Coach Todd Wilkerson said that’s an advantage for his team, though he’s sure his colleagues already have looked ahead to try to close the gap with the number of workouts that are held, such as having a camp.

“I’m sure there are coaches who knew it was going to happen to them,” Wilkerson said. “So I’m sure other coaches have made sure they’re not just going to lose practice time.”

One of the practices that the Patriots had to give up was a morning walk-through scheduled for Aug. 16, the same day they’re having a scrimmage against Mount Vernon at Patriot Field. “I don’t see it affecting us a whole lot,” Wilkerson said, as his team has pretty much kept to its normal summer schedule.

The we’ll-be-fine mantra permeates the area. It’s an adjustment, yes. But nothing that can’t be solved.

“We just need to make sure we do what we need to do,” Buening said, “and there will enough time to take care of it.”

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