BOONE — The Watauga football team ended its 10-day spring practice May 24 with a final workout and free popsicles for its players.
The Pioneers went through working not just on fundamentals, but trying to find replacements for several graduating players and a handful of players who will not be returning because of moving away from the area.
But that doesn’t mean Watauga will sit and do nothing over the summer. Camps, conditioning and lifting weights are up next for the Pioneers before they open the season Aug. 23 at home against T.C. Roberson.
Up first is what head coach Ryan Habich calls “max-outs,” which are a series of drills that incorporates conditioning, weight lifting and several skills that are used to grade potential NFL athletes. Those began on May 28.
“It’s the second time we max-out in the second semester,” Habich said. “We’ll test all of our football players in strength, the 40-yard dash, the pro shuttle, their vertical jumps and we’ll test our kids starting Tuesday when they return for school.”
Habich said the Pioneers will be given the next week off to concentrate on final exams and “to finish strong academically,” Habich said. The players will also help out at Watauga’s football camp June 13-14 at Jack Groce Stadium.
From there, the Pioneers will go to an FCA team camp at Lenoir-Rhyne University June 17-19. Offensive skill players — quarterbacks, running backs receivers, tight ends — compete in 7-on-7 drills against cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers.
Linemen will compete in drills such as pushing blocking sleds, relay races and pushing tires.
“It’s fun for linemen because they compete against other linemen in challenges,” Habich said. “They’re teamed together, so it’s a good team bonding experience for our team.”
When they return, their first summer workout starts June 20, which will be open to incoming ninth-graders.
“We have about five weeks of summer workouts where we have about 15 workouts,” Habich said. “We go three days a week and then we continue with football for about 12 periods. We lift in the weight room and we do a lot of running because so many of our players play both ways, so we try to get out kids in great shape for the season.”
Habich said the Pioneers will also continue to correct any mistakes made during the spring workouts. Watauga returns a young team that has just seven players with significant varsity experience, and is trying to replace seven starters on defense.
Habich said having patience was important during the past two weeks since the learning process is going to take time.
“We messed up a lot,” he said. “We’re so young. It was a good practice. It was a Friday before Memorial Day and we actually had Monday off. It was the first time we had a Monday off in the six years I’ve been here. For the most part, we had a lot of the kids here and we did a lot of the team periods against bags so we could see our blocking schemes and we could see our defense basically against another offense coming at us.”
Habich told the team that what they learned in spring is just the start of what they will learn over the summer and after Aug. 1, when football officially begins.
“We tell our players that when you see it against live bullets and we put it all together, that’s when you’ve got to do all of your little fundamentals,” Habich said. “We’ll take the film from the spring practice and work on them during the summer.”