Christmas in August: Grid teams set for contact work

By Maurice Patton

Sleep may not come so easily for area high school football players over the next few days.

They may awaken, though, with a little pep in their step, before crashing the next night.

Finally, full-contact preseason practices start this week – Monday for Columbia Academy and Mt. Pleasant, Tuesday for Columbia Central. Spring Hill won’t go in full gear until Thursday, as the Raiders have to complete heat acclimatization per Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association guidelines.

Teams across the state have been raring to go since Governor Bill Lee announced Tuesday he would sign COVID-19 State of Emergency Executive Order 55, allowing football and girls soccer to begin regular-season play as originally scheduled as long as TSSAA coronavirus pandemic guidelines are followed. Both had been classified as ‘high-risk contact sports’ under a previous order by Lee, resulting in limited activity.

Though the order was announced on Tuesday, it was not signed until Friday, keeping coaches and players on pins and needles.

“I’m so excited,” CA junior two-way lineman Miles Nixon said. “We’ve all been waiting so long; we’ve been itching to hit each other.

“We’re all excited about the season and thankful that right now we’re getting a full season and hopeful we can play every single game. I think it gives us all a lot of hope.”

Dontavious Ellison (59) and his Mt. Pleasant teammates will finally get to swap licks Monday, as the Tigers will have their first full-contact practice of the preseason. Columbia Academy will also be in full gear Monday, with Columbia Central following Tuesday and Spring Hill Thursday in anticipation of their Aug. 21 season-opening contests. (Photo by Alyshia Busby)

Mt. Pleasant’s Dontavious Ellison, another junior lineman, echoed Nixon’s sentiments.

“I’ve been waiting to actually get back to it,” said Ellison, who missed the Tigers’ opening-round playoff loss at McEwen with an injured right ankle. “I haven’t been on the field since November.  I’m ready to get back out there and play. I’m just ready to hit – anybody.

“We’ve been doing light stuff, and now we’re going into heavy stuff, important stuff. This where commitment comes in. You find out who’s really dedicated to football.”

Full-contact practices take on an added degree of importance in this preseason with the lack of scrimmages and jamborees prior to Aug. 21 regular-season openers – a point not lost on Columbia Central coach Jason Hoath.

“You don’t get to work out those kinks before the first game,” Hoath said. “Not just schematics, but players getting adjusted to game-type play as far as conditioning level. That’s something you can’t really simulate in practice, and it’ll show up in those first games.

“We’re going to work on (offensive) blocking schemes now that we can have contact. With (Carter) Szydlowski our only returning starter on the offensive line, we’ve got a lot of evaluating to do up front, on both sides of the ball. That’s where games will be won and lost, so there’s a lot of responsibility there and 2½ weeks to get it in.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. E-mail:; Twitter: @mopatton_sports.

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