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Pads come on as training camp kicks off in Port Arthur, Mid County

High school football players across the state put on pads for the first time last week as training camps got underway. For local programs, the pursuit of a playoff push began.

Port Neches-Groves started practice at 5:30 a.m. to avoid the heat and get players home early to get sufficient rest for the next day. Head Coach Brandon Faircloth said he was excited to get back on the new turf at the Reservation.

“I feel like it has gone really well,” he said. “I am really proud of our guys. They have given really great effort. They are very coachable. This part of the year is about improving and watching guys play and compete. I think we put them in good situations to show that.”

Faircloth said he enjoys watching the intensity go up a notch with pads on. The team help an inter-squad scrimmage Saturday. All teams could start “full-contact” practices Saturday.

Nederland practiced a little later in the morning, but Bulldogs Coach Monte Barrow said the team has been fortunate to avoid the Texas summer heat.

“We are always looking at the weather,” he said. “This time of year has been usually cool. You worry about cramping a lot with your big guys. We are still on them about replenishing and drinking a lot of fluids and whatnot. Our bodies have cooperated as the weather has allowed them to.”

Barrow said the training camp has allowed players to get more dialed into the schemes.

“With teenagers, we are focused on the mental part of the game,” he said. “It is assignment football. We do that in the summer, but they’re not all here everyday. When football starts, it is a different mindset. We really focus on being a smart football team and hold them accountable for the small things, whether it is in the locker room or on the football field.”

Memorial Head Coach Brian Morgan said the addition of pads allows a natural pecking order to form.

“By definition, it is not full contact,” he said. “We can’t bring people to the ground, but once you put shoulder pads and helmets on, it is full contact. We just aren’t bringing guys to the ground. The varsity guys understand how to practice. They are really physical practices that fit in the rules… You have the ones that have been, kind of, talking trash all summer. Now the pads are on and when contact occurs, some of them can back up what they have been talking and some back down. That is fun to see the first day.”