Gainesville

After taking the month of July off for precautionary reasons, the Gainesville Leopards are ready to get back to football.

Monday, Aug. 3, marks the first day of football practice and athletic director James Polk said he didn’t think his team missed out on too much the past month and will be prepared to start the season.

“We get a week back that we lost in the summer is how I see it,” Polk said. “We’ve got more time to get ready for our first scrimmage, so we’re going to use that time to make sure we’re up on our strength and conditioning, so it doesn’t bother me at all. If everyone has to go by it and the same people we have to play have the same rule, what’s the problem?”

Polk said June was filled with great workouts from his team that made him feel much better about taking July to make sure all the players are healthy.

“We put in more work in June as far as football goes to offset if we have to shut down,” Polk said. “I read the news and I listen to people talk and I’ve been keeping up with the guidelines, so I felt like if the numbers continue to grow, you’ve got to prepare for the worst-case scenario. We did the same thing over spring break. We made sure we shut down the facilities to make sure they were clean.”

As Polk drives around town to check up on how his athletes are working out, he knows they are doing what it takes to get ready for the season.

“All the boxes we needed to check were checked,” Polk said. “We’re still sending workouts to our kids and they are still throwing the ball around each other. They’re still doing all those things. They’re just not doing it here. Our kids have worked hard governing themselves. Our seniors have really stepped up and I think a lot of that is they just saw what happened to the seniors in the spring, so they’re going to take advantage of the opportunity.”

As far as the playbook goes, Polk said the team made great progress during the summer with the intake of information.

“We put in our base offense, defense and special teams schemes,” Polk said. “We’ve got kids that are in the top 10% of the school. Our kids don’t have a problem taking in information like that and you shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel every single year. We adjust our philosophy off the kids we have, but we didn’t change it.”

Come Monday, Polk said all the athletes will be exactly where they need to be as workouts begin.

“It’s a trained habit,” Polk said. “You’ll see them in their socially distant spots and they know what to do. When we lined up in June, we hadn’t picked up a football since the second week of November and we said for them to run these plays and they did. It’s five years of foundation.”

Polk said the while the athletes are ready mentally, there is still work to be done before the first scrimmage Aug. 20 against Anna.

“Scheme-wise, they’re ready, but they need work on conditioning,” Polk said. “I’m assuming they’re going to be a little winded because they have a couple weeks off. You’re not going to be totally in shape until district, but they’re going to be ready. These kids haven’t been able to do anything. They’re going to be in tune and fired up and ready. I’m confident.”

The only thing that does worry Polk is the potential for another shutdown and he and his staff are still diligently working to plan for every possibility.

“What worries me is not knowing the day to day or the hour to hour,” Polk said. “At any given moment, we can be notified that we can be shut down. That’s what makes me nervous is seeing all the work these kids put in not be able to be paid off. It’s just new. Nobody has done this before. I couldn’t say what we’re going to do if we have to shut down. I’m still working on that plan.”

Patrick Hayslip can be reached at sports@gainesvilleregister.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip

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