By Anthony Rhoads
High school football teams will be starting the 2004 season a week earlier if a Georgia High School Association adopts a new proposal in October.
If the proposal is passed, the 2004 high school football season would start Aug. 20. In order to accommodate the early start date, a week of practice would be cut out in the summer.
"I think we should not play until September," Lovejoy head coach Al Hughes said. "We're pushing it further and further back. In the old days you could go to camp but those days have fallen by the wayside. I sure do miss the old days. The next thing they will want to cut out is spring practice."
Now, high school teams have five weeks to prepare for the season ? one week in helmets and four weeks in full pads. The new proposal would still allow for one week in helmets but teams would have three weeks in full pads.
"The thing that worries me is less practice time and the kids being prepared for the heat and physically being ready," Union Grove head coach Scott Mason said.
If the practice is cut, Mason said that the summer off-season work-out programs will have to be stressed.
"It's going to be even more important to get your guys in during the summer when it's optional," Mason said.
One effect the proposal might have, Hughes said, is that some players might not be able to get football scholarships. If practices are shortened, the quality of players at the high school level could drop in Georgia, he said.
"We've been one of the most high recruited states in the nation but now where is it going to all end?" he said. "The colleges will go outside our state. How will it affect our quality of players and who suffers? I'm concerned about where we're headed."
The proposal also calls for the regular season to be played in 11 weeks instead of the current 12.
"It will be more difficult to schedule eight teams at two stadiums," Clayton County athletic director Bob Brannon said. "It will make scheduling more difficult but it can be done."
One of the reasons the GHSA wants to shorten the season is to finish the playoffs before Christmas break.
This year, the state championship will be played on the weekend of Dec. 19. Next year, if the proposal is passed, the state championships will be played on the weekend of Dec. 3.
"If we are still alive and are able to get our practice time in and if the championship is played on Christmas Eve, I couldn't think of a better Christmas present to give to our players and our school," Hughes said. "That wouldn't bother me."
Lovejoy has had playoff experience and has had to play on Thanksgiving weekend. In the past when the team has still been alive in the tournament, the team has met on Thanksgiving Day.
"We get together on Thanksgiving and we spread the love," Hughes said. "We spend time together and the players spend time with their families. It is a very special time for us."