By BEN JOHNSON
The rain rolled into Tahlequah during the mid-afternoon hours on Tuesday. The water even began to pool up near the entrance to Tahlequah’s football facility.
No big deal.
The Tigers weren’t about to let some measly summer rain shower dampen the mood on the opening day of fall camp. The players dressed out in practice jerseys, gathered for a short chat in a team huddle and then rushed out to the practice field.
Yep, high school football is back.
“It’s just an exciting time. It always is,” Tahlequah head coach Brad Gilbert said. “Everybody is equal at this point in time, and we’re excited about the opportunity that we’re going to have every Friday night.”
The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association allowed schools to open fall camp on Monday, but Tahlequah opted to wait a day. The Tigers will, instead, have a two-a-day, of sorts, on Saturday when they have a morning practice and a scrimmage in the evening.
Adhering to OSSAA rules, Tahlequah will stick to practices in T-shirts and shorts until Friday.
“We’ll break out the pads on Friday,” Gilbert said. “That’ll be the first day that the OSSAA will anybody to pad up.”
Until then, it’s all about getting reacclimated to the field and the grind.
“Right now, we’re focused on the small things, and those are alignment, knowing your assignment, quality reps and making those a habit,” said Gilbert, who said his club had players “in the high 50s” report for camp. “It’s just young men becoming familiar with what we’re asking them to do.”
At Sequoyah, Keys and Hulbert, camp opened on Monday. And on the first day, Sequoyah head coach Shane Richardson said he ran into a problem.
“We had more out than we had helmets to give out,” said Richardson, who mentioned that he had roughly 85 kids at practice.
Fall practice for the Indians came after a summer that included nothing but lifting. The Indians would have participated in 7-on-7 and team camps, but the OSSAA forbade it after Sequoyah was found to be in violation of summer camp policies last summer.
With those implications in place, Sequoyah had to lay low during the summer months.
“We’ve been waiting a while to go out and practice for real,” Richardson said. “We have a long way to go, but we’re just going one day at a time.”
For Keys, it was all about dodging the heavy rain, Gary Willis said.
“We practiced in the rain and then ended up in the practice facility,” Willis said.
According to Willis, the Cougars currently have 55 players practicing. And Willis said he likes what he sees so far.
“The intensity is awesome — some of the best I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It really is.”