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Football practice opens for area high schools

August 1, 2018

Technically, Monday was the first day of football practice for West Virginia high school football teams, but any program that began workouts then is already behind.

A three-week voluntary practice period in June gave teams a head start.

“The three-week period in June means we’re officially ahead of the curve from where we traditionally were before that period,” Huntington High head coach Billy Seals said. “The June period, we can’t make it mandatory, but guys understand that those who are here in June are the guys we’re going to count on in August.”

Seals welcomed about 65 players to practice Monday morning. At Cabell Midland, about 90 players took the field. At Spring Valley, 109 worked out.

Cabell Midland practiced on a grass field, as the installation of new artificial turf at the school’s stadium hasn’t been completed.

“It should be tomorrow or the next day,” Knights coach Luke Salmons said of the turf’s completed installation.

Salmons agreed with Seals that Monday was the first official day of practice but in reality wasn’t the beginning of 2018 drills.

“In June, you practice with them all the time,” Salmons said. “We’ve been together essentially all year. Our kids have worked hard all year to get better. This time of year it means more and you do things a little differently. There’s more of a sense of urgency and the kids are excited. The coaches are excited.”

Spring Valley coaches and players, too, were enthused to take the field. Timberwolves coach Brad Dingess and his staff took on the considerable task of directing 109 players, including 42 freshmen, on Monday.

“We’re not a huge Triple-A school,” Dingess said. “We have about 1,000 kids in the school.”

If half those kids are boys, that means more than 20 percent of the male population of the school is on the football team.

Spring Valley is seeking a third consecutive return to the state championship game. Cabell Midland (2012) and Huntington High (2013), too, would like to return there. All three have lost title contest showdowns to Martinsburg, likely favored to return to Wheeling Island Stadium again for the championship game.

Salmons said he empathized with Dingess in dealing with a massive number of players.

“It’s hard with that many,” Salmons said. “It’s a good problem to have, but sometimes half of them practice at one time and the other half at another time. We wind up running two varsity offenses and two varsity defenses, a junior varsity one and junior varsity two.”

Middle school football workouts also began Monday.

“Wow, what a great first day of practice,” Fairland Middle coach John McClung said. “I think we have another special group of players.”

Football wasn’t the only sport to officially begin the 2018 season on Monday. Soccer, too, started, as runners and walkers in Ritter Park might have noticed when they encountered Huntington St. Joe players practicing. Huntington High’s boys soccer team worked out at 7 a.m. and the girls went at 5 p.m. The Highlanders golf team practiced at 11 a.m. at the Sugarwood Golf Course, while the cross country squad ran through Ritter Park at 7 p.m.

Spring Valley boys and girls cross country teams were on the track for the first day of practice Monday and assistant coach Missy Hall said she was pleased with what she saw.

“Not bad,” Hall said. “We have several runners out, but a few missing who are practicing soccer. We share.”

The Timberwolves roster features about a dozen boys and an equal amount of girls.

“Today, we just want to see what kind of condition they’re in,” Hall said. “Some of our veterans who play travel soccer in the summer are better conditioned than our freshman who are just coming in.”

Hall said any student who wants to run cross country can join the team up through the first week of school.

“All you need is a physical (examination) and a good pair of running shoes,” Hall said.

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