Football Under Way
Moore County’s three public high schools kicked off fall football practice Monday, taking advantage of a temporary reprieve from the summer’s scorching heat.
Temperatures were in the 70s in the morning, when Pinecrest and Union Pines got started, and weren’t expected to creep above 85 toward the evening hours, when North Moore hit the field.
“That was much-needed,” said North Moore head coach Greg Simmons of the weather.
The new season always brings new excitement, and all three head coaches seemed fired up about what they saw.
“The first day is special, and the kids had a great attitude,” Pinecrest head coach Chris Metzger said afterward. “They were on time and attentive and worked hard. It was just a joy and a blessing to be with them.”
According to N.C. High School Athletic Association regulations, players may not wear full gear or have body-to-body contact until the seventh day of practice. On the first three days, they are limited to helmets, shorts, cleats and T-shirts. On days four through six, shoulder pads can be added, but no body-to-body contact is allowed.
The Patriots are coming off the best season in the program’s history. Pinecrest jumped out to a 6-0 start and finished 10-3, including a win in the first round of the state playoffs.
Depending on how you count players who shared positions last season, the Patriots will have 18 or 19 new starters in the lineup for the opening game at Enloe on Aug. 20.
“We know what we’re going to have to face, so we try to focus more on what we can do to get the kids to believe in themselves,” Metzger said. “We’re really just going to stay positive and do the best we can.”
Interest in the Patriot program continues to be high as Metzger enters his fourth season at the helm. He said 112 players came out Monday, which he described as an “awesome” turnout. He’s expecting to welcome 70 freshman next Monday.
“The kids did a great job,” he said. “They were sponges. They came out ready to work and learn, and it was a joy. The weather was beautiful. It was a lot of fun.”
Metzger said the kids went through a “basic routine,” focusing on movement and preparation. He was pleased with their effort.
“Great kids, great leadership,” he said. “[They’re] doing everything we’ve asked, having a good time, having fun.”
On paper, the Patriots look young, Metzger said, but there are plenty of kids who have been in the program and have the opportunity to step up into leadership roles.
“They know the young men that left, so they saw great leadership and great work ethic and they’re just continuing to exhibit that,” he said.
On Aug. 12, Pinecrest will have Douglas Byrd, Jack Britt and Broughton on campus for a scrimmage at 9 a.m. At 6 p.m., the Pats will travel to the Cumberland County Short Stop Jamboree at Fayetteville State University, where they’ll take on Cape Fear.
Over at Union Pines, the Vikings are working toward making it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. After a 4-7 campaign last year, second-year head coach Ryan Riggan wants his team to concentrate on being competitive in every game.
“Our guys have worked incredibly hard, and our coaches have done a lot this offseason to really put us in some better situations to score and be in contention to win more games,” he said. “I just want to be more competitive. We need to be in every game. If we can do that, that’s obviously one of the goals, to compete every week and get better every week.”
About 75 players participated in the first practice, up from last year. Riggan said the kids worked on fundamentals and thought the session went well. He wants to seize on the excitement that comes with the first day of practice and find a way to keep it going throughout the season.
“We gotta figure out a way to harness this and carry it into the next three months of football season,” he said. “Hopefully, we can bring that same enthusiasm every day for the next 14 weeks.”
The Vikes will be scrimmaging Lee County and East Montgomery on Aug. 12 at 9 a.m. The next evening (Aug. 13), on Meet the Vikings Night, they’ll scrimmage West Columbus at 6 p.m.
“It should be a pretty exciting evening for Union Pines,” he said.
They open their season at home against Red Springs on Aug. 20.
Simmons, the Mustangs’ first-year head coach, described the turnout at the first day of practice as “average,” which would be an improvement over the numbers from last season’s 1-10 campaign.
“We’ve got people hanging out there who we’re still trying to get the message to that it’s time to start working,” he said. “A lot of our key guys have been working pretty hard. We’re about where we need to be right now.”
By the time the season starts, the former Northwest Guilford defensive coordinator says he’s hoping to have more than 50 players between the varsity and JV programs. He’s said he’s especially excited about the underclassmen.
“I’ve got a good core of freshmen and sophomores,” he said. “I’d say the majority of the kids who are out there right now are freshmen and sophomores. You get them used to the system, get them used to working hard, and by the time they’re seniors, it becomes second nature.”
Among the upperclassmen, he said leaders are beginning to emerge.
“Xavier Scotton has been on the horn with a lot of people to try to get people out there, and Dylan Dunn is a kid who we thought might not be able to make it this year, because he had gotten in a car accident, but he’s been out there running around and being a vocal leader. So you’re getting kids like that to buy in, and if you can get the upperclassmen to buy in, then you really get those underclassmen to buy in.”
As he has all summer, Simmons stressed that program-building is a process that will take time.
“I think it’s slowly coming around, but it’s not happening overnight,” he said. “As I’ve said all along, I’m going to do things slow and easy. I’m not going to try to build Rome in a day.”
Right now, the Mustangs are slated to participate in only one scrimmage, a six-team jamboree at Eastern Randolph on Aug. 14 at 10 a.m.
“I’m not in any hurry to unleash on anybody else,” Simmons said. “I’m more worried about getting us right. This is actually the first time in my coaching career that I’m glad we’ve got a first-week bye, because I want to make sure that we get our ducks in a row before we hit that field.”
North Moore is scheduled to open the season Aug. 27 hosting Princeton.
Charlie Bergmann contributed reporting to this piece.
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