Football Is Back

Walker Valley junior Griffin Broome (2) and teammates take to the practice field on Monday. All high school football teams across the state were allowed to practice in full pads for the first time this preseason. (Banner Photo - Patrick MacCoon)

The Friday night lights wait patiently for kickoff.

America's beloved sport is officially back, as football teams across the state practiced in full pads for the first time under the summer sun Monday.

Some practiced at midnight in Middle Tennessee.

With less than three weeks until jamborees present the final tuneups before Bradley County teams open up the regular season on Aug. 16 and 17, the time to get rolling is now.

At Walker Valley a very young team focused on intensity and hustling around the field.

With only six seniors on the roster currently, head coach Glen Ryan's group spent the offseason focusing on fitness and strength. The Mustangs did not compete in any 7-on-7s, as extra time was spent in the weight room.

"We have to dedicate all the time we can to getting bigger and stronger," Ryan said. "This team is mostly going to be sophomores and juniors. We are babes in the woods all the way across the board."

A quarterback battle is heating up as junior Griffin Broome took snaps with the first team offense, along with sophomore running back Heath Tanksley.

Broome and sophomore Daniel Denton will compete for the job vacated by the state's No. 2 all-time leader in total yards, Kolten Gibson (11,227 total yards, 117 career TDs)

"Right now they are neck and neck," Ryan said. "We want a quarterback who will take charge and say I am the man for the job. Either way, both are good enough athletes to play somewhere else to help us."

At Cleveland High School, two-a-days began at 3 p.m. with an emphasis on a power drive up front early.

After rushing for an area best 2,367 yards last season, equivalent to 215 yards per game, the Blue Raiders look to pave the way for the run game again behind a beefy and experienced offensive line.

Intensity was not lacking, as the 'Hogs' up front worked on blowing up traffic barrels in short-yardage scenarios.

"We are too big and mean up front to not move the chains," fourth-year head coach Scott Cummings echoed to a group that returns four starters, all standing at least 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds.

The chance to show grittiness and clash helmets with fellow teammates was embraced at Bradley Central's practice field as well, later in the evening.

A memorable 10-win season from last year was followed by hefty losses to valuable starters, but a go-to calm leader has returned.

As one of the top two quarterbacks in the state in terms of accuracy, a coolness about senior Dylan Standifer led his group while working on screen passes early in practice.

Quick passes for the Bears are welcomed, which might not be a bad thing as a brand-new offensive line will have to learn on the run.

"All of us have to take leadership this season," Floyd said recently. "When we are in between the white lines we have to be ready to compete. It's time for all of our guys to get after it and get better with every rep."

BC will practice the rest of the week from 5-7:30 p.m.

With preparation for week zero and beyond underway for all high school football programs, the chance to get better every day is a step every coach is pressing his team to make.

Live football is on the way, so there is plenty of work to do.

Walker Valley will scrimmage Tullahoma this Friday at 1 p.m. at Sewanee.

Meanwhile, Bradley Central will host its annual five-way scrimmage Saturday and will take to the road to battle with Alcoa next Friday.

Cleveland will spend this week in two-a-days and will scrimmage next Friday at Benny Monroe Stadium against Soddy-Daisy.

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