August 18, 2012 in Washington Voices

Bears gearing up

Football drills begin; opening game Sept. 1
Steve Christilaw
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Coach Rick Giampietri outlines the practice for his players at Central Valley High School on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

The countdown to fall began Wednesday morning.

It started simply enough, and it started on a gorgeous summer morning.

But still, the countdown clock now is ticking.

It’s football season.

College football season began more than a week ago; high school football practices officially opened Wednesday, with season-opening games now less than three weeks away.

At Central Valley, the season got under way with the usual process. Paperwork needed to be turned in, forms had to be filled out, physical exam papers were checked off.

“I would have hoped for a bigger turnout,” CV defensive coach Steve Kent said. “We won nine games last year. I would have thought more kids would want to be part of that.”

More than that, Central Valley was 9-3 a year ago and reached the state Class 4A quarterfinals, falling to eventual state champion Skyline, 52-17.

A few more players will straggle in over the first days of practice. It’s a universal given of high school football.

“We don’t have to give out equipment because most of these kids have it already because we did a team camp,” coach Rick Giampietri said. “But there’s a lot of paperwork that needs to get taken care of. It’s the same every year.”

Giampietri was happy with his turnout in the top three grades. Freshmen practiced separately.

“We’ve got pretty good numbers in our freshman class,” he said.

Most high school programs already have held practices by attending a team football camp, and players have been working hard getting ready for the first day of practice by attending regular conditioning sessions in the school weight room and individual camps.

Still, even with that voluntary preparation, the first days of practice always are held without pads, so there’s no hitting or tackling practice. Most high school programs save their two-a-day practices for the first full week of turnouts, but there’s still much to accomplish.

Perhaps the highlight of day one is the timing of players’ speed in the 40-yard dash (the average punt travels 40 yards and the average hang time for a punt is 4.5 seconds, so coaches use that distance and time as a benchmark).

Two lines of players, each with an assistant coach holding a digital stopwatch, raced one by one from the 40-yard line to the goal line. Most raced more than once in search of a personal-best time. A healthy number covered that distance in under 5 seconds and one broke 4.6 – fast by any standard. American sprinter Justin Gatlin, the Olympic gold medalist in Athens and bronze medalist in London in the 100 meters, has a verified time in the 40 of 4.42 seconds.

Football practices today are a vastly different from those of the not-too-distant past.

In 1954, first-year Texas A&M coach Paul “Bear” Bryant took his team out to practice in 100-degree temperatures while forbidding players to drink fluids during workouts. Vince Lombardi did the same with his NFL teams. They weren’t alone. Water breaks, the common wisdom of the day said, made players soft and kept them from getting into top condition.

Such practices have tragic consequences. Even with frequent water breaks, football players have died during practices in hot weather. Just last month, a 15-year-old sophomore on New York’s Staten Island collapsed and died during an evening conditioning practice without pads.

Today, at virtually every high school practice field, water breaks are both commonplace and frequent.

At Central Valley, where practices began with temperatures in the mid 70s, they take hydration a step further.

“We always have water and we take a lot of water breaks,” Giampietri said. “That’s important. But we also monitor our kids for dehydration. We weigh them before and after practice so that we can see just how much water weight they’re losing during practice. That way we know just how much fluid they need to replace to be safe.”

On the field, the Bears will look to replace a number of starters from last year’s playoff team. Five CV starters were All-Greater Spokane League first-team selections a year ago; only senior Austin Rehkow, the first-team punter, returns.

Adam Chamberlain, who started at safety last year as a sophomore, is expected to step into the starting job at quarterback, replacing the graduated Gaven Deyarmin, a second-team All-GSL pick last year.

In addition to helping the Bears reach the state quarterfinals in football, Chamberlain started at guard on the boys basketball squad, which reached the state championship game last season.

Three second-team All-GSL picks from last year return on offense in running back Grayson Sykes, wide receiver Austin Flynn and lineman Josh Wanner.

Central Valley will play its annual Blue-White scrimmage Friday at 9:30 a.m. and opens the season against Ferris on the red turf of Roos Stadium at Eastern Washington University at 7 p.m. Sept. 1, in a rematch of a dramatic first-round state playoff game last year.

The Bears knocked off the defending Class 4A state champions, 23-7, at Albi Stadium to advance to the state quarterfinal game.

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