Taking a break

Members of the Watauga footbal program take a break during the first day of practice on July 30.

BOONE — Watauga’s football coach Ryan Habich ran his team through a three-hour workout July 30 during the Pioneers’ first official practice at Leigh Wallace Field, which is the lacrosse program field in the spring, but doubles as Watauga’s grid practice field in the fall.

Habich said 62 players showed up for the practice. Members of the team that participated in 10 or more summer workouts did not have to close the practice with conditioning drills. All opened practice with a conditioning test, which 90 percent of the team passed, according to Habich.

The rest of practice was mostly a review of the summer sessions, which concentrated on fundamentals of offense and defense, and some review of Watauga’s offensive and defensive systems.

“Our kids did a good job all summer,” Habich said. “We knew who’s going to be here. We had 62 total players on the first day. We didn’t have a lot of new people. We had a few new people, but 90 percent of the team were here all summer and had 10 workouts, so we were able to do a lot of schemes the first day.”

Habich said the conditioning the Pioneers did during the summer allowed them to concentrate on schemes and not try to catch up with running a lot of conditioning drills to get the players in shape.

“We did so much in the summer, I thought we were pretty efficient with what we were doing offensively and defensively,” Habich said. “So, you’re working the toughest part, the conditioning part and the tempo, from running from drill to drill. Even through we did a lot all summer, we always go back to ground zero and take if from the very beginning and make sure they have the tools necessary to play the position we need them to play.”

Ashe County football

WEST JEFFERSON — The Ashe County High School Huskies football team held its first practice at 8:30 a.m. July 30, starting the fall sports season.

Head coach Brian Hampton said his coaches were working on implementing base formations on the first day of practice, as well as improving the team’s conditioning.

“Those guys that were here during the summer have a big advantage,” Hampton said. “They’re in better shape. If you’re in shape coming into the start of the season, you’re going to learn things a lot quicker, because you’re not huffing and puffing.”

Hampton said the entire offense will be implemented by the third day of practice, but there is much more work to put in on the defensive side of the ball.

“We’re searching for something our guys can be good at,” Hampton said. “We’re going to (do) multiple (schemes). If we find something we’re successful with and our guys are comfortable with, we’ll stay with it. If not, we’ll just keep trying to confuse people.”

Avery County football

NEWLAND — Depending on who you ask, the merits of a 7-on-7 passing league exhibition can be many, or some may deem it as a glorified practice.

Although the 7-on-7 format rarely matches the intensity of a regular-season, 11-on-11 contest, this summer’s 7-on-7s are affording the 2018 edition of the Avery Vikings an opportunity to work on facets of its passing game, as well as work on secondary defense in the period prior to this week’s official opening of fall practice.

Avery welcomed a quartet of schools on the mountain on Thursday, July 26, to MacDonald Stadium for the Vikings’ final 7-on-7 exercises of the preseason. North, West, and East Wilkes, as well as neighboring East Burke, brought their clubs to Big Red Country on a sunny and warm afternoon to perfect its pigskin prowess, helping each team to get a first look at what an opponent might look like once the season begins for real on Aug. 17.

“I thought we did pretty well,” Avery head coach Mac Bryan said following the event. “I thought Troy (sophomore quarterback Hoilman) had a good night at quarterback.”

Springs called up to Rangers

BOONE — The Texas Rangers called up Appalachian State alum Jeffrey Springs to the big leagues Tuesday, giving the left-handed relief pitcher his first experience in “The Show.”

The promotion of the 25-year-old Springs, who was primarily a starter on the mound for App State from 2012-15, coincided with roster moves made by the Rangers before the trade deadline.

Since moving to the bullpen midway through the 2017 season, when he was pitching for the High-A Down East Wood Ducks, Springs has totaled 134 strikeouts and just 24 walks in 79 innings. Springs also spent some time with the Hickory Crawdads in low-A ball, where he made the South Atlantic League All-Star team.

App State football

BOONE — A sterling Arena Football League debut has created a second shot at the NFL for Appalachian State alum Malachi Jones.

On July 26, the Chicago Bears signed the 24-year-old Jones, who is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver. Earlier this week, he was named the Arena Football League’s Rookie of the Year thanks to a season in which he led the league with 1,156 receiving yards on 77 receptions.

He averaged 96.3 receiving yards per game and 15.0 yards per catch as a member of the Albany Empire. He ranked second in the league with 29 touchdown catches and also had five touchdown runs.

A college standout with Appalachian State, Jones led the Mountaineers with 585 receiving yards as a junior in 2014 and ranked second on the team with 25 receptions for 463 yards as a senior.

App State football starts practice

BOONE — The time to start the season is close for Appalachian State.

The Mountaineers take their first official step toward that direction Aug. 3 with the beginning of fall practice. The workout is the first of 25 the Mountaineers will have until they open the season at Big 10 power Penn State on Sept. 1.

App State will not conduct two-a-day practices during that stretch. The team had 29 preseason practice in past years, but has to settle for fewer workouts this year.

“It’s four practices shorter for everybody with no two-a-days, and you also have to have some breaks in there,” head coach Scott Satterfield said. “We’re going to go five or six days of practice and then take a day off. It will be like that basically through August.”

The Mountaineers will practice in helmets, jerseys and shorts with no pads the first two days. They’ll workout in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts the next four days before practicing in full pads on the seventh day.

Satterfield said there would be some scrimmaging where some tackling will be necessary. Once they reach the final two weeks, the staff will consider eliminating the heavy contact and get ready for Penn State.

App State men’s basketball

BOONE — Appalachian State guard Ronshad Shabazz has been invited to the prestigious CP3 Elite Guard Camp in Winston-Salem from Aug. 1 through Aug. 4.

Shabazz is just one of 20 guards in the nation to receive an invitation to the camp. The camp, which is hosted by current Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul, will show players what it takes to play at the highest level and how to prepare for the hurdles in both college and the NBA. Past participants of the camp have included Stephen Curry, C.J. McCollum and Kemba Walker.

“I am extremely excited to attend the CP3 Elite Guard Camp,” Shabazz said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to learning from Chris Paul and the great staff that will push us to compete at the highest level. This will be great preparation for the upcoming season and beyond.”

Shabazz, a Raleigh native, earned his second consecutive All-Sun Belt honor in the 2017-18 season, after playing and starting in all 33 games. He averaged a team-best 18.5 points and dished out a team-high 100 assists.

App State women’s basketball

BOONE — It’s not often that Appalachian State’s women’s basketball team faces a recent national champion.

That’s the case when the Mountaineers play at South Carolina on Dec. 5 in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks are one of three teams from power conferences the Mountaineers will face in the 2018-19 non-conference season. The non-league schedule was released July 31.

South Carolina won the 2017 NCAA women’s national championship with a 67-55 win over Southeastern Conference rival Mississippi State in the finals. Appalachian State last faced South Carolina in the first round of the 2011 WNIT, losing 67-54.

Appalachian State also plays at Georgia Tech on Nov. 11 and at Clemson on Dec. 21.

“Our non-conference schedule is loaded with solid programs that will challenge us at home and on the road,” Elderkin said in a statement. “The level of competition throughout will prepare us for the road ahead in the Sun Belt Conference.”

App State has its share of solid programs on its schedule from other non-power conferences. The Mountaineers, after hosting Division II Lees-McRae in an exhibition game on Nov. 3, plays at Conference USA champs Alabama-Birmingham on Nov. 9.

The Mountaineers return to the Holmes Center to host former Southern Conference rival UNC Greensboro on Nov. 15. App State also host former SoCon rivals Elon on Nov. 20, Marshall on Nov. 25, College of Charleston on Dec. 2 and Wofford on Dec. 17.

The Mountaineers face two other former SoCon rivals in road games. The first is at Davidson on Nov. 17 and at East Tennessee State on Nov. 28.

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