Wildcats excited to be in full pads
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Aug. 12, 2005 - It's unanimous.

Someone would be hard-pressed to find any Sulphur Springs Wildcat on Friday morning who was not glad to be in full pads. After eight workouts in four days in shorts and helmets, the players and coaches were antsy to finally get to practice real football.

"It changes when you go from touch football to tackle," said SSHS head coach Brad Turner. "It's just getting accustomed to doing what you were doing, but now you're doing it with a full set of gear on.

"The good thing is that for our linemen and our defensive players, especially, is that they can work on their most important things. The most important thing about defense is tackling, and they can get right into that. The offensive line can really start being physical and blocking people. We can get back to fundamentals, blocking and tackling."

Generally, the Wildcats don't get into much full-contact, 11-on-11 practice because of the risk and injury and the wear and tear it takes on the players, but with pads on, they can work on tackling drills, full-speed blocking assignments and the like.

Turner said Thursday afternoon, though, that the Wildcats will likely conduct a 2-on-1 "thunder alley" Friday evening to give the players a taste of full contact.

"We're miles and miles ahead mentally of anywhere we've been," he said. "Now, physically, we've got to block and we've got to tackle, and we've got to execute.

"It's been a very good week. We're as far along as any bunch that I've ever had. We've basically got our entire spring in. Mentally, we're way, way ahead, which is a credit to our coaches and a credit to kids for working and studying."

The offensive linemen were the last ones on the field after the morning practice, and coach John Albritton called them to be in the film room studying Jacksonville tape at 5 p.m. today - an hour before practice starts. That's fine with the members of the group who call themselves Hogs.

"I got tired of being in shorts and just touching people. I don't like that very much," said senior Jose Vargas. "I was ready for pads."

He and junior A.J. Johnson said they are already working on Jacksonville schemes. The Wildcats open the season at Jacksonville on Aug. 26, following a scrimmage against Whitehouse next Friday.

"We've had our good days and bad days, but we're mostly going up hill," Johnson said.

The Wildcats are pointing to the Jacksonville game much the same way they did two years ago when they defeated Wylie, a team that had received votes for the top 10. Jacksonville went three rounds deep in the playoffs in 2004, losing in the regional semifinals by one point to LaMarque.

"Jacksonville is a big game for us. You hate to put too much emphasis on a preseason game, but they're a good football team," Turner said. "For us to travel down to the Tomato Bowl and play well against a good team will sure do wonders for our outlook if we can go down there and pull off a win.

"We've already been working on them in shorts. We've introduced schemes and fronts and those sorts of things. We've really worked hard on our conditioning. We're going to be ready to play. It's a zero week game, so it won't make or break our season, but it's a big game."

Following Friday evening's workout, the Wildcats will report for photos at Gerald Prim Stadium Saturday morning. The varsity photos will begin at 8 a.m., with the JV and freshmen to start 90 minutes later.

The scheduled intrasquad scrimmage for Saturday evening has been canceled.

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