The Walker Valley Mustangs are acclimating to the heat as they work out in pads in preparation for the 2016 football season. (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts)
Heat, heat and more heat.
That’s what the Mustangs stepped into on day one of football practice in helmets and shorts, and that’s what they stepped into on the first day of practice with full pads Monday.
With temperatures hovering in the mid to upper 90s with little hope of cooling off anytime soon, Walker Valley coach Glen Ryan said the heat and humidity and high heat index values are simply elements the Mustangs must overcome in order to be ready for their Aug. 18 opener against rival Bradley Central.
The Mustangs have tried to beat the heat as much as possible with morning sessions, but have also spent hours in the evening swelter.
“We’ve been going in the morning on days we do our two-a-days, Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 to 10 a.m. Then we come back in the evening from 6 to 8 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we’ve been going in the mornings,” said Ryan.
The morning sessions have helped a bit, according to the Mustangs’ skipper, but heat is still heat when it comes to suiting up and popping pads.
“It’s helped us. It’s still hot, but it’s football in the South. It is what it is. It’s going to be hot, and we’ve got to get acclimated to it. It’s going to be hot on August 18,” he said.
The Mustangs will open their scrimmage schedule Friday with a trip to Sewanee to face Tullahoma. Walker Valley will then host Knox Catholic and East Hamilton on Aug. 6 before closing out the scrimmage schedule against Franklin County three days later. The Mustangs will play 20 minutes of football in jamboree action at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga Aug. 13.
“We have our first live scrimmage Friday. We’ve got a three-way after that, another scrimmage, the jamboree, then we play football,” said Ryan. We don’t have a lot of time to get ready. We’ve got some things we’ve got to get better and more consistent at. But I feel like when August 18 rolls around we will be ready to play.”
The scrimmages will be a vital cog in the Mustangs’ progression, but Ryan feels the team is already making some right moves and expects even more progress between practice sessions and practice games.
“We’ve got a lot of things still to shore up before we’re ready to play game one. Thank goodness we’re not playing tomorrow. But we’re working, we’re headed in the right direction. We’ve got to get things shored up, we’ve got to get the guys to understand the sense of urgency. We don’t have all day. We have less than 21 days,” he said.
With the pads on, the body heat level naturally rises. And with the extra heat comes extra fatigue and the initial enthusiasm may fade a bit — at first — as the Mustangs are forced to become accustomed to yet another level of training. But Ryan said the team will continue to work hard and be ready to go.
“I think they’re glad (to be in pads), it’s hard to tell sometimes with our guys,” Ryan said through a chuckle. “They always talk about how they can’t wait to get pads on, until they put pads on, then it’s like, ‘Oh gosh, it’s hot!’ But, they are doing a good job. They are practicing hard and we’ve just got to just keep trucking along and keep working on getting better as a football team.”