High School Sports

It’s back: Prep football teams hit practice fields

High school football teams have spent much of the summer sweating in weight rooms and running sprints on fields across South Mississippi to prepare for Monday.

Why Monday? Because Mississippi’s teams were officially able to hit the practice field for the first time Monday in preparation for the 2016 season.

“The summer gets long and we always enjoy the summer workouts, but you're gearing everything toward fall camp. The summer workouts are the bridge between spring and when it matters in the fall,” Gautier coach Chris Peterson said. “Now we have less than three weeks to get them ready so we have to get after it.”

One of the Coast’s top teams should once again be the Gulfport Admirals, who return 15 starters — six on offense and nine on defense — from their 2015 Region 4-6A championship squad.

“You’re always anxious to get things started,” coach Eddie Pierce said. “We have to gel, even though we have a lot of kids coming back. We have to have leadership. If you have the right leadership you should be fine.”

Personally, Pierce said he’s ready to kick the season off after suffering a heart attack July 1.

“I feel good,” he said. “I’m almost 100 percent.”

New coaches

Six of the Coast’s 25 teams will feature new head coaches this season.

New coaches include Tracy Rogers at West Harrison, Matt Caldwell at George County, Benji Foreman at Bay, Eric Collins at D’Iberville, John Feaster at Stone and Larry Dolan at Pearl River Central.

“I’ve been doing this for 35 years and you would think that at some point the excitement would go away, but it doesn’t,” said Collins, who previously coached at PRC. “I haven’t slept in a week, just thinking about this day and new football team and new place. Boy, I’m just excited.”

Collins replaces long-time coach Buddy Singleton, who retired after the 2015 season.

“There’s been a learning curve for everybody,” Collins said of the change. “It’s not every day you get to follow a legend. They have been doing things a certain way for a long, long time. Change has been maybe a little difficult on both sides, but I think the guys have taken to me. I know I have taken to them. I think it’s a good fit and so far I’m really comfortable with where we are.”

New rules

The MHSAA is implementing several rule changes for the 2016 season.

The biggest change is clipping is now illegal all over the field.Also, completely clear or white tooth and mouth protectors are no longer prohibited and football gloves must meet a new standard.

Important dates

Schools will hold their jamborees Aug. 12, with classic games set for Aug. 19 and the season openers Aug. 26.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs