High School Sports

'Week zero' forces teams to adapt

On the first day of school, Robin Bacon’s head was spinning.

Besides getting settled with a new crop of students, the A.C. Flora coach was counting down to his team’s first game of the season — one week earlier than usual.

While the first full week of high school football begins next week, a handful of teams, including A.C. Flora, Camden and Gilbert are playing on Friday in what is called Week 0.

“It’s hectic,” said Bacon, whose team opens at fourth-ranked (Class 2A) Dillon on Friday. “You’re panicking trying to get stuff done. All the things that you usually have a couple of weeks to prepare for, you’ve got less time to do. It’s the little things.”

Playing in Week 0 means one fewer week of full contact practice, fewer reps for special teams, and less time for players to get mentally prepared.

“Well it’s always a little bit hectic when you’re getting ready for the season,” said Gilbert coach Barry Harley, whose team opens at home against No. 3 (Class A) Great Falls.

“The biggest difference is you have less time for conditioning and you’re worried about what kind of shape your kids are going to be in,” Harley said. “But our kids have done a great job during the summer with conditioning so I feel good about that. I think we’re on a level playing field and our kids are ready to play.”

At Camden, Jimmy Neal’s team is playing in Week 0 for the first time. He spent the weekend developing a checklist of things his Bulldogs need extra preparation on before its game against Hartsville.

“There are some things that are tough,” he said. “It’s tough to have all your special teams completely ready. Your short yardage offense. Your goal-line defense. You’ve got to pack all that stuff in.”

As for the players, Bacon said he’s trying to keep the rush from negatively impacting his players.

“It’s difficult because you’re throwing so much stuff at these kids in a short time, but you try not to overload them,” Bacon said.

He also did not want to bang them up too badly, so the Falcons have been less physical than usual in early practices.

“It’s important to have our guys ready to play. We want everybody to be healthy and in the best shape possible,” Bacon said. Regardless though, the Falcons will be ready for the game.

Neal said the Bulldogs’ seem pretty psyched, too.

“Kids don’t like practice, they want to play,” Neal said. “So one less week of practice even though it evens out in the long run, as far as they’re concerned, they’re excited about it.”

Teams that start their regular season early roll into Week 1 with a game’s worth of experience under their belts, for better or worse.

“I don’t know how it will effect us,” Neal said. “But I believe with all my heart it’s all the same for everybody, every team that’s playing in week 0.”

But will teams that played in Week 0 be at a disadvantage against those that had that an extra week of practice? Maybe.

“On the front end its tough, because you don’t have as much time to prepare,” Bacon said. The upshot, he said, is the open week the Falcons will get just before region play begins.

“That’s why we did this,” Bacon said.

Harley is not excited about the open week, which for the Indians is Week 1.

“You can’t get a good quality practice in on an open week,” he said.

Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419.