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Football Fever

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Wednesday, September, 05 By Dan Guttenplan
Staff writer

Less than three weeks ago swarms of local football players took the field for the first time this calendar year in what they hope will be a quest that extends into December.

To this point, there has been little reward for the premature end to summer. Hot, painful practices. Sweat-covered jerseys. Heavy, shoulder-crushing pads. Helmets that make the heat seem 20 degrees warmer.

Coaches have spent roughly three hours a day screaming in an attempt to test the collective will of their teams. They attempt to find out if their athletes will sink or swim. There's no room for the faint of heart.

It's time to build character.

In the past week, the attention turned to this week's opponent. Enough beating on each other, the coaches would say, it's time to focus on the real enemy.

The bodies need to rest, so the players venture into the classroom. Assignments are given to each player by the coaches. Starting positions are awarded. Reserves are warned to be prepared.

It's a violent sport, after all. Everybody's number is bound to be called.

So now, after a summer of relaxing and a few weeks of conditioning, the schedule shifts to double sessions on the brain. School started this week, and for the first time in weeks, football players are sitting still for eight hours rather than crashing into one another.

But the education doesn't end at 2:15 p.m.

The football team returns to the classroom for two more hours of film study each day. Watch your opponent on film, the coaches implore. Find his tendency. Know his next move before he makes it.

Now today, one day before four local teams open their season, the adrenaline is starting to flow. The body is conditioned. The mind is prepared. Enough of the sacrifice. Tomorrow, the sun will begin to set just as the opening kickoff soars in the air. The cheerleading teams will take over a section of the bleachers. Parents will wear pins with their sons' faces on them. Alumni will return in their varsity letterman's jackets, looking to reminisce about years past.

The speed of the game will be quicker than ever for the local athletes. It will be difficult to catch one's breath in the opening minutes. The hits will be heard over the sounds of the trumpets and trombones coming from the school band. And the coaches will be seen pacing up and down the sidelines agonizing over whether their respective team is ready.

Some say this 24-hour period is the worst time of the year for football players. The body is beat down from the preseason, and the athletes have yet to see the fruits of their labor.

Others say there's nothing better than the next day's anticipation. The past is meaningless. The future is limitless.

All teams will enter the weekend with the same enthusiasm, the same ambition and the same ray of hope.

Not all will exit the weekend unscathed.

Regardless, when the first football goes up just after 7 p.m. tomorrow evening, all the preseason hype and anticipation will be lost on the 14- to 18-year-old boys preparing to engage in their first hit in an official game situation in more than nine months.

The coaches are ready. The players are ready. Are you ready for some football?

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