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Tigers ramp up to full speed for fall practice

Greenville High School head coach Josh McLendon works on ball security with senior quarterback Brandon Simmons Monday during the opening of fall camp for the Tigers.

Greenville High School head coach Josh McLendon works on ball security with senior quarterback Brandon Simmons Monday during the opening of fall camp for the Tigers.

The Friday-night lights of Tiger Stadium are fast approaching.

The Greenville Tigers took to the practice field in an official capacity for the first time Monday afternoon on the heels of a weeklong break.

And other than an unexpected rain delay in the middle of practice, courtesy of the Bermuda Triangle-like summer climate in Alabama, things went well for Greenville head football coach Josh McLendon and the team.

“We took the week off last week, so it still felt like a first day of practice despite the long summer,” McLendon said.

“The energy was good and despite the brief rain delay, we didn’t miss a beat.”

McLendon added that the week would gradually acclimate players to pads and full contact, eventually working toward full pads by Friday.

But thanks to a new set of Alabama High School Athletic Association guidelines concerning contact and practice, the Tigers—and by extension, every other public high school in the state—must follow a specific set of rules concerning when they can and can’t go full-speed at practice.

“There are certain amounts of contact you can have on certain weeks, and right now we only allow one day this week of full-speed contact practice,” McLendon said.

“Next week, we’ll be alternating days of full-speed contact practice, and then week three is alternating days also.  Week four is 90 minutes of full-speed contact practice per week, so you basically have 30 minutes per day.”

What initially sounds like a complicated addition to the practice regimen has become routine, according to McLendon.

Furthermore, the new rules will hopefully bear fruit in the form of more refreshed, energetic players on Friday nights—the nights it matters most.

“Everybody should be pretty much used to it by now, so it’s not an issue for us,” McLendon said. “It’s something we’ve worked into the schedule, and the kids understand what we’ve got to do, so we just go on with the schedule.

“Injuries are a part of the game. I don’t know if you can necessarily control that or not, but I think it’s good that they’re teaching the proper way to practice.  And hopefully it’s getting you to where you’re at your best on Friday night.”

This year’s Tigers must meet the challenge of replacing several noteworthy players in key positions, not least of which includes kicker Antonio Alvarez, one of the more prolific special teams players in Greenville’s recent history.  Fortunately, McLendon is confident in his successor.

“Joseph price is going to handle all of the kicking duties for us,” McLendon said.

“He’s been working hard all summer for us in a lot of kicking camps.  We’ve got a lot of confidence in Joseph, and he’ll get the job done.”

The Tigers’ stellar defensive unit from 2015, which allowed just 13 points per game, have been subjected to a few more vacancies, however.  But McLendon’s keys to success haven’t changed from the previous year, and his mantra applies doubly to his defense.

“I think what goes with every defense every year is just making sure we get lined up right, knowing our assignment, and then having high discipline to read your keys,” McLendon said.  “I think if we do that and get 11 guys to the ball and tackle well, we’ll be fine.”

Offense will see the return of seasoned senior quarterback Brandon Simmons, backed by his swift and promising underclassman, Javion Posey.

Flanking the quarterbacks will be a competitive bunch of young playmakers who’ve been vying for a top spot since the very first day of summer training.

“We lost some playmakers on offense in some running backs and some really good receivers, but we also have some guys who are stepping up now and pulling that load,” McLendon said.

“I’m excited, I know they’re excited and I feel good about where we’re at offensively.”