By Dency McClure
I turned off the main highway, took a major curve, went past the new sports complex, crossed the double railroad tracks and a creek to be greeted by the Blum population sign that read 444. I am always fascinated by the entrance to 1A towns. I’d say that is an amazing one. So many big trees and great views all around the area.
I made my way up the narrow road to the campus at the very tip top of the hill. I didn’t see anyone on the old field, so I found some helpful people and was taken to Coach Thornhill. Even though it was the first day of school, he was more relaxed than I ever saw him last season. Now, you have to know the three times I saw him last season were stressful situations. One was at the state championship game he was coaching and won, another was when he was scouting a semi-final game, and the other was when he was coaching a semifinal game himself. I can’t even begin to imagine the focus needed for all three of those tasks not to mention the stress level.
Today, he cheerfully greeted me and told me when the boys would be practicing and where. The new field isn’t ready for them to practice on, but the baseball field is a go. So, they are practicing on the new baseball field to get used to the turf. The new football field is supposed to be ready to be played on in September. I can’t wait to see it all under the shining lights.
He told me about their new facility and explained the 50 yard line being present. Their goal isn’t to play 11-man, like so many have thought, but to be the host with the most. They have great expectations for hosting track meets, play-off baseball and softball games, and last but not least, Six-man and 11-man football games. It is like no other facility in the area and is definitely a jewel. The new field has very visible Six-man markings. I know you can play Six-man on an 11-man field, but you can’t play 11-man on a Six-man field. So, with a clear goal in mind, I feel they made the wisest choice for their buck.
I drove around town a bit to see what I could see. I always like to get a feel for a town when I cover an event there. I eventually started looking for some good shade to park in to wait out the time left before practice. I ended up in front of the Masonic Lodge. It wouldn’t be a 1A town, if people had just zoomed past me. I got some slow drive-bys and long looks. I expected nothing less! I had a great view of the school zone lights so I knew when school was letting out.
I drove out to the baseball field and waited for the team to make its debut. I was very excited to see the old yellow dawg make the turn followed by a cloud of dust. I waited a few more minutes in my car with the AC running while they unloaded. My car thermometer indicated 104 in the shade earlier, so I knew it was hot and I knew the turf would be giving off heat waves.
There looked to be about 20 boys all in good condition and not struggling in the heat. They ran some tackle drills, passing, stretching etc. They worked well together and already had good speed on their ball handling. It will be fun to watch how their season progresses this year. They were definitely a thrill to watch from the sidelines at AT&T stadium.
After a water break, they spread out into a big circle area probably more spread than normal because of Covid. Then it got quiet and I realized they were about to pray. One boy took the lead and prayed a perfect prayer in the moment. I have to say, I’ve seen lots of prayers on fields but none quite like this. It wasn't’ before or after practice but right in the middle of it all. Making it a purposed focus in the busy. The boys were so quiet and respectful getting in their places and taking the moment. It left me with a feeling of calmness. Which is definitely not what is usually going on during a practice.
After that they gathered back up and got back to tackling and catching balls. I enjoyed watching the quick snaps and hand offs as well as the line stance drills. Every coach and team does their own thing that works for them. I have seen many new things this August that I like.
The new turf sparkled in the sun and a tiny shade had formed against the back fence. The water boy and anyone else that got the chance jumped in the little three foot shade for a moment of reprieve from the harsh sun. I was no exception. I did keep good distance from the players, so I could keep my mask down as much as possible. If you think the heat is bad, try wearing a mask in it. I honestly don’t know how so many coaches do it now like it’s nothing. I guess it’s all about conditioning, as they say.
See you on the sidelines!
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