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Lions gridders have good numbers, make progress

It has been a big week for football, and it’s not confined to Halifax County High School.

The Halifax County Middle School football team also kicked off practice this week, and Head Coach Frank Shealy is pleased with both the number of players that have turned out for the team and the progress that is being made.

“We’ve had good numbers so far, and are anticipating a few more players coming out,” Shealy said after Wednesday afternoon’s drills. 

“We had 52 kids come out Monday, and we’re at 60 or 61 now, which is typical. I know we have several kids away on vacation, and have some kids that have been playing baseball and are just getting their vacations over with. I’m expecting more to come in the next few days.

Shealy noted he had 22 players from last year’s team that were eligible to return this season, and 17 of them were on the field Wednesday. 

“I know a couple of them have moved,” Shealy explained, “and the reason others that are missing are explained. I’ve talked to most of them.”

The Lions’ coach says this season is going to be a rebuilding year in some respects.

“We’ve lost a lot of talent,” he pointed out.

“We’ve lost a lot of starters. We’re kind of in a rebuilding year, but we’ve got some key people in a few key spots on offense and defense that know what they’re doing. We can build our new offense around those guys and go from there.”

One of the ingredients Shealy is missing this season is size. Shealy had a core group of big linemen last year. Comparatively speaking, the Lions will be smaller up front.

“We don’t have a lot of size, but with the offense the high school team runs, you need fast linemen,” Shealys aid.

“We have a few big guys, and we’re going to get them in the right spots.”

Last year Shealy had more players come out for the team that he had equipment for and had to cut a small handful of them. This year is different.

“Right now, I don’t have enough players to be forced to have to make cuts,” Shealy remarked.

“Coach Roark (Halifax County High School Head Coach Michael Roark) wants me to keep them all, so, if at all possible, I’m going to keep them all. My objective is to keep as many (players) as I can.” 

Shealy said that while it is early, he is pleased with what he has seen on the practice field the first three days of this week.

“We’re off to a good start,” he said.

“I’m pleased with what I’ve seen so far. We’re conditioning, we’re learning and we’re figuring what the guys can do for us.”

Shealy said that on Monday he will put helmets on the players that had participated in all five days of drills this week. That group of players will then don shoulder pads on Tuesday, and move on to full gear on Wednesday.

Players that did not participate in drills for all of the first five days will be transitioned into helmets and pads as they complete the necessary prerequisites.

While the coaches are teaching and the players are put through a variety of drills, conditioning will be a big focus as the team moves forward.

“We’ve got to get them in shape after they’ve been sitting around all summer,” Shealy pointed out.

“A few of them have been playing baseball, so they’re in pretty good shape. But, we have a few of them that have just been sitting around. Getting the kids in shape is one thing I’ve been talking with the other coaches about. Even in our drills, they need to be running, they need to push their bodies to get in shape.”

Shealy pointed out that how hard the kids work and how quickly they can learn what is being taught will be huge factors in the team’s success.

“Our first game is August 22,” Shealy pointed out, “which is pretty quick. We have a new offense and a new defense to learn, a lot to put in, plus get the kids in shape. There is a lot to do in a short period of time.”