HOUSTON – It’s a hard, rough game that requires protection and padding.
The Houston Hilltopper football team held their first practice in pads Friday night as part of the annual Midnight Madness celebration that saw the team blocking and tackling under the lights at Topper Field.
The community showed up to watch the team run on the field and the cheerleaders were even on hand to do their routines and chants.
The donning of pads and the chance to hit is always a milestone in football and lets players know they are a little closer to the real thing and a real game. Houston seniors have been hosting Midnight Madness for the community for some time, but the first night under the lights for freshmen was a little different.
“This is my first high school practice in pads,” said Ledarrius Carruthers, a big defensive end and right tackle for the 2014 Hilltoppers. “I like it better than being in the sun.”
Carruthers may be new to high school football but he’s not new to the game.
“I like to hit. It’s part of the game,” he added. “If you don’t like to push on people you don’t need to be out here.”
The Hilltoppers donned maroon uniforms and white pants for Friday night’s drill. A heavy dew and high humidity has all athletes sweating during stretching and warmup exercises.
It all started with the midnight chime of the Courthouse clock.
Helmets crashed and shoulder pads clacked at heads were lowered and the blocking and tackling began.
“I thought it was a good practice,” said Houston Football coach William Cook. “Coaches look forward to this part of the season and I think the kids do to. Putting on those pads just make practice different.”
Cook’s practice routine is pretty much the same each day: warm up, squad drills, offense and defense and then run if things don’t go well or the team is not in shape. The Hilltoppers did not run Friday night.
The practice did see players doing up-downs for a fumble or jumping off-sides. The defense was made to do it twice when their coach didn’t feel they were focused and serious.
“All in all I thought they did a good job tonight,” said Cook. “They were excited and they were flying around the football.
“We did more running plays and not a lot of passing,” he added. “They are beginning to click and we will be ready for Bessemer (Academy) on Friday.”
But there are still a few more practices to go before the scrimmage at West Lowndes Aug. 15 against Bessemer Academy out of Alabama. The Hilltoppers open the season Aug. 22 at Pontotoc and their first home game will be Aug. 29 against Calhoun City.
Cook said the team’s practice for the rest of the season will be pretty much the same: Monday will be a look at films and walking through the game plan; Tuesday is a heavy work day; Wednesday — if things went well Tuesday – is a little lighter; Thursday is walk-through; and of course, Friday is gameday.
And gameday is what practice is all about.