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Nederland, PN-G set to practice in pads

 After four days of conditioning practices, real, old-fashioned football strapped up and smacked Friday all around Southeast Texas. For teams who did not participate in spring football, this week was the opening of workouts but Friday is when the real evaluations can begin.

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> In Nederland and Port Neches, teams could officially put on pads and start hitting each other.  The results were good in both spots.

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> “The defense is ahead of the offense, which is typical,” PN-G head coach Brandon Faircloth said. “We started out with the Indian drill and had good inside periods. We butted up with each other . It’s good to play real football.

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> “It’s always a little bit off offensively in the first day of pads. The defense played pretty well today. They’re really fast. It was good to see them flying around. It was good first day of pads.”

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> The Indian drill is similar to the Shotgun Alley drill they do at Nederland. Many places call it the Oklahoma drill after the college football program which brought it to prominence. Two offensive players line up across from two defenders. One offensive player is the ballcarrier, and he tries to get past the defenders in a confined space.

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> The idea is to get some contact experience early and find out which players have a little more pep in their step when pads are on.

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> “We started in the traditional way with a little Shotgun Alley,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “We were very pleased with that. It’s just a glimpse of what potential people might have in one aspect of the game. It’s kind of tradition. It’s amazing that your perspective on some young men, you don’t get until you do that drill.”

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> The point of waiting to strap on pads for four days at the beginning of workouts is to limit the potential for heat-related illnesses. The University Interscholastic League adopted the policy last season after several high-profile heat-related football deaths around the nation.

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> Heat hasn’t been an issue for the Indians, according to Faircloth. He attributes that to offseason work by the players.

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> “We haven’t had one kid fall out,” Faircloth said. “I attribute that to our Indians course in the summertime. They’re working out from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the summer. Now, they’re done before the heat even starts. Our kids do a really good job preparing for the heat. We haven’t even had one kid tell us he hasn’t felt good.”

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> Nederland, too, has seen few instances of heat-related issues this week. Neumann said some of his players may have showed up without taking full advantage of the summer workouts, but that those players also get noticed pretty quickly.

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> One in particular was senior defensive tackle Caleb Malveaux, who showed up 17 pounds above what he weighed in May. Most of that is muscle, but he and other players may need to work on conditioning in the next few weeks to get ready for the season.

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> “It’s very revealing when you leave in May and come back to see someone laboring,” Neumann said. “Caleb Malveaux gained 17 pounds and he got real tired at the end of today. But, he’s sustained that weight because he’s been working out all summer. He gained weight and maybe it’s not all good weight, but he’s in good enough shape to carry it until he loses it and gets into the kind of shape he needs to get in.”

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> Helping teams has been the weather conditions this week. There has been a push this week of Saharan dust into the Gulf, which brings dry air to the entire Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas. This not only weakens the chances for a hurricane, but also keeps temperatures cooler than normal.

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> Cool in August in Texas is relative, though. While temperatures in Chicago are down in the 70’s this week, the definition of “cool” here has been low 90’s by noon.

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> On Friday, for instance, the temperatures when PN-G practiced in the morning never got above 82 degrees, though it felt like 90. Nederland, which ended practice a little before noon, had things a little warmer, with the temperature reaching 93 and feeling close to 100.

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> That’s why teams take precautions at this time of year and make sure to keep players hydrated at all times.

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> “Some of our kids are more in danger of drowning more than heat,” Neumann said. “We just give water to them constantly.”

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> David Coleman is a sportswriter for the Port Arthur News. He can be emailed at dcoleman@panews.com and found on Twitter at @MDavidColeman.