It was still practice, but on two practice fields on a hot Saturday morning hosting Union Pines, Jordan-Matthews and Southwestern Randolph squared off to practice what they’ve done so far this preseason against live, hard-hitting opponents.
High school football teams across North Carolina have less than two weeks of practice to go before the season starts. The three squads which met to scrimmage, and most other schools, open on Friday, Aug. 23.
The enthusiasm for a big gain or defensive stop was in midseason form. The execution was pretty good for this point in the preseason, but with not much time before it’s time to keep score, Union Pines head coach Ryan Riggan and Jordan-Matthews head coach Marty Scotten know there’s work to do.
“Today we just really wanted to see good execution and, for the most part, we got that,” Riggan said.
“We were able to get a ton of guys out there getting reps, so we could get them on film and watch what we were doing on Monday,” he said.
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“It’s really early,” Scotten said, “so we got some good, some bad, and some very ugly.
“We tried trading guys in and out as much as possible. We’re pretty young and we’ve got some guys in positions they haven’t played much, so it was about what I expected,” said Scotten, who’s entering his 20th year coaching the Jets.
Squads traded 10-play possessions for the first half of the scrimmage. After a needed water break, teams played with series of downs, creating a little more of a game-like pace.
Scotten felt his Jets accomplished a lot. Practicing against another offense or defense is valuable at this point in the preseason.
“You get used to going against, practicing against each other. We know what we do, so to get out here and face different guys, different stuff, is important,” Scotten said.
“Plus you get in playing shape from playing,” he said. “You can run all you want in practice, but it won’t get you in shape like playing in a game will.”
Scotten said he has a young squad, having only two senior skill position players on offense and defense heading into this season. The Jets went 5-7 overall and 2-3 in the 2A Mid-State, falling in the first round of the state playoffs, last year.
The Vikings should be confident with their experience going into the season, said Riggan.
He has 12 seniors on the roster, led by veterans in the trenches.
“It all starts up front. You have to move people and stop people from moving you,” Riggan said.
He credits his returning linemen for doing a great job in the weight room and overall through the offseason.
“I think the senior class as a whole has done everything they’ve needed to do for this season,” Riggan said.
The Vikings went 2-9 last season, and 0-6 in the Cape Fear Valley Conference.
Saturday’s scrimmages were a chance for officials to brush up, as well as adjust to some rule changes being put into effect this season. The referees led short lectures on the rule changes for each team after play was over.
Any contact led by the crown of the helmet will be a 15-yard penalty. If an official rules the helmet-leading contact to be with intent to injure, it can be an immediate ejection along with a flag.
If a player loses his helmet during a play, on offense or defense, he can’t continue in the play. It will be a 15-yard penalty if the player keeps playing or if an opponent makes contact with the player who lost his helmet. If the ball carrier loses his helmet, the play will be blown dead.
Technology can’t be stopped, even on the sidelines of a high school football game.
Ipads will now fall under the same rules as coaches’ headsets. Coaches can use Ipads or headsets anywhere on the sideline. For a player to listen to a headset or be shown something on an Ipad, it must be done back in the bench area of the sideline.
More rule changes include enforcement of fair catch interference penalties - a team can choose to take the 15-yard penalty and replay the previous down, most likely making the flagged team punt again minus the 15 yards, pass interference penalties - an offensive pass interference call no longer carries a loss of down and a defensive pass interference call is no longer an automatic first down, and focus on blocking or contact made by the kicking team on an onsides kick - it will be a penalty on the kicking team if it initiates contact within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage on a kickoff.
Union Pines opens its campaign at home, versus East Montgomery, at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 23.
Jordan-Matthews gets to host the first Friday night of the season, too. The Jets will play Providence Grove, no longer a Mid-State Conference foe, at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 23.