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Comets gridders off to good start

To the casual observer Thursday’s official start of practice for the Halifax County High School football team had all of the trappings of what would be expected on the first day — coaches and managers going about routine opening-day tasks — things like taking height and weight measurements of the players and inventorying and issuing equipment.

When the coaches and players walked out to the practice field, it was different.

Thanks to new Virginia High School League rules that allow for off-season workouts, things like coaches trying to learn players’ names and players asking multiple questions about basic routine things were not seen. Everybody was on a higher level.

“It’s weird because this did not feel like the first day of practice,” Comets Head Coach Mike Roark said Friday morning after his team’s second official practice had ended.

“Everything we did these two days we’ve been doing all along. Thursday was the official start day. We got all of the paperwork out of the way. Today we got the footballs out and threw some and played some defense. Now we get to start putting people into positions and find out where we need to be and those types of things.”

Roark and the Comets’ coaching staff were pleased with the way things went the first two days. And, the numbers were good – approximately 50 varsity players and approximately 25 players each for the junior varsity and ninth-grade teams.

“We’ve seen some new kids show up that we weren’t expecting that might be able to help us,” Roark pointed out.

“We’ll go from here and see what happens.”

Roark was so pleased with the way everything went the first two days that he called the opening of practice not only the best he has experienced since coming to Halifax County High School, but one of the better ones he has experienced as a coach.

“It’s been one of the better ones (opening days of practice) I’ve had in a long time,” Roark pointed out. 

“A lot of that is because of the new rules. There were no major surprises. It was like walking outdoors for a normal practice, except it’s now that we have only 27 days until we play Jefferson Forest in our opening game.” 

As far as play installation goes, Roark says just about all of the team’s base offensive scheme and base defensive schemes are in place.

Saturday is scheduled to be the first day of full-contact drills in full pads, and Roark is going to make it a big day for the players with an intra-squad scrimmage.

“We will try to have a good 12 plays in, six runs and six passes, and on defense we’ll try to have a good six or seven things in,” he explained.

“We’ll give everybody reps. The ones that get a lot of reps may be the kids we have some questions about, as we want to give them a good, fair evaluation. We’ll film everything and watch the film and figure it out.”

As pre-season practices march on, there will be increasing focus on player evaluations.

“All of us coaches will meet after practice and we will evaluate kids and start moving the player chart up and down,” Roark said.

“We look at things like who can catch the ball, which receivers know the (pass) routes, who among the receivers are running clean routes and who isn’t, who is throwing the ball well and who isn’t. 

“We’ll look at the linemen and see who is lining up right and who isn’t,” added Roark, “and see who understands the concepts. We will sit down after every practice and tweak everything and get it dialed in.”

Along with evaluating the players, the coaches will evaluate team progress.

“We have an install sheet showing where we want to be at the end of each day,” Roark pointed out.

“We’ll look at that each day and determine if we got everything done we wanted to accomplish that day, see what we need to go over again, and determine if we are ahead of schedule or are behind.” 

Practice will continue this week, with the Comets’ practice sessions running from 3:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. each day and the intra-squad scrimmage set for Saturday.