By AARON SNYDER
For one football coach, it was old hat.
“I’ve seen 40 of these,” said Ashland’s Leon Hart with a laugh.
For another, a new hat covered a freshly shaved head.
“Just pure excitement,” said first-year Boyd County coach Ray Brooks of his feeling on Monday.
Area high schools hit the field for the first official practice of the summer. The 2012 season kicks off on Aug. 17.
Between its two practices of the morning/early afternoon, Boyd County’s locker room had a barber shop environment. Players bubbled with enthusiasm as junior Brandon Bryant buzzed hair clippers over Brooks’s noggin.
A few minutes later, it was back to work.
“I can’t help but be impressed with these Boyd County kids every day,” said Brooks, who was hired in February. “Their work ethic is second to nobody.”
Brooks was Huntington’s defensive coordinator a year ago, while he taught at Boyd County Middle School. The Lions gave him his first head coaching gig.
“There are some places you go, and you feel like it’s a great fit,” Brooks said. “You can call it fate, or whatever. I feel like this is a great fit for me.”
Boyd County, which had 64 total players out on Monday, opens its season at home against Shelby Valley on Aug. 17. The Lions will scrimmage Belfry on Aug. 10.
Before then, Brooks is eager to find answers to an abundance of questions.
First and foremost, who will be the Lions’ starting quarterback?
Reid Dearfield, Billy McCoy and Cade Isaacs are among those vying for a shot at taking the snaps. Dearfield slid into the starting role last season due to an injury to Lance Evans, now a senior at Russell. As a junior, Dearfield led the Lions in rushing.
Fortunately for Brooks, confidence isn’t among the list of questions.
“We expect to be winners,” he said adamantly. “We don’t have a three-year rebuilding program, or a five-year rebuilding program. We’ve got a right now program.”
While the Lions are in search of their first winning season since 2008, Ashland is looking for its fifth consecutive such.
Hart is entering his 10th season of guiding the Tomcats.
“The first practice is always ragged,” he said. “Kids aren’t sure where they’re supposed to be ... they’ll run the wrong drill, go to the wrong station, but then tomorrow will flow tremendously. I don’t worry too much about it anymore.”
Ashland will practice in helmets for two-plus weeks before it straps on full pads on Aug. 1. The Tomcats are saddled with the latest full-pad date because they start school in late August, almost a week after their opening game against Lawrence County at Putnam Stadium.
“I feel like I’m talking to the clouds when I say it,” he said, looking up, “because nobody ever listens. But it’s crazy that we have three games in August. There’s something wrong with that. We could eliminate open date, eliminate opening round of playoffs by taking the top two teams (from each district) and move the season back to Sept. 1 ...
“... We will make sure, that before we get to pads,” said Hart, stepping off his soapbox, “we will have everything in. When we finally get to pads, we’ll be polishing.”
Hart isn’t too concerned about his front lines — only two graduated from the offensive and defensive lines — and he is leaning toward left-hander Aaron Elam to take over at quarterback for the graduated Sam Hunter. Do-it-all athlete Logan Salow will likely start at wideout.
Developing depth is a top priority at this point in the summer.
“We’ll give a ton of guys reps,” Hart said. “We’ll always try to make sure we’ve got depth.”
Of course, that will take some time, and Hart knows it can’t all be done in a day. He ended the first day perfectly satisfied.
“There’s always a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and optimism on Day 1,” Hart said. “If there’s not, you’re in the wrong business.”
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.
Area coaches, both old and new, head up first official summer practice
By AARON SNYDER
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