Monday was the first official day of practice for the Bearcats football team.
Rules prevent teams from having required practices before July 30 but many teams work on strength training and no contact practices all year, according to Anson High School Coach Luke Hyatt. To do otherwise would be to put the team at a competitive disadvantage.
Hyatt offers incentives for players to participate, like T-shirts or being first in line for meals if they attend a certain percentage of practices in the off-season. The vast majority of the players do.
“We’ve been lifting and practicing all summer long,” he said. “We’ve got a great group of kids.”
He calls weight training “integral” to football and uses exercises that carry over to the game while building explosive power, core strength and hip flexibility, like squats or clings.
During this time, he has been working to install offense and defense with the team.
While he knows the necessity of hard work, he also knows that the athletes and the coaching staff need a break. “It can be a grind,” he said. If a student wants to go to the beach for a week, he encourages them to go. The team also took a week off around July 4.
Looking forward to this season, he expects a better defense. There are eight returning starters and last year there were lots of underclassmen. “We’re way ahead of this time last year,” he said.
Offensively, while the team lost four of the five starters on the offensive line, there are some other returning players that will give reason for optimism.
Ishmael Bailey and Rodrick Evans were both All-Conference last year and Bunyon Tyson and Allen Campbell did great work as wide receivers.
Hyatt also sees more improvement needed with special teams and kicking.
“We can’t turn the football over,” he said. He believes there have been too many turnovers by the team over the last three years and is also working to help the defense cause more turnovers. The team that wins this battle usually wins the game.
“It’s a real tough schedule,” he said. Specifically, games against Pageland-Central, Richmond County, Scotland County and Porter Ridge will push Anson to its limits.
This season will be the last one before new changes go into effect. This is the last season the conference will be split between 3A and 4A teams. Starting in 2013, the conference will be exclusively 3A.
Overall, he praised the team’s “good attitude” and said they “put forth a great effort.”
Bearcat football fans should know that “Meet the Bearcats” has been moved from 6 p.m. Aug. 4 to 10 a.m. at Anson High School. Visitors will get a chance to see the Bearcats practice before their first scrimmage with North Stanly and West Montgomery Aug. 8 at West Montgomery.