Gainesville

The Gainesville Leopards were ready for the start of fall football. After a strong spring and summer program, head coach James Polk said he has already noticed that the work they put in is paying off.

“We just have to keep grinding with what we’re doing,” Polk said. “Everything that we did in the spring is starting to show. Now we’re having to tweak little bitty things like movement and steps and stuff like that. But as far as knowing what to do, I think we’re OK. We’re never all the way there, but we’re a lot closer than we would have been if we hadn’t done what we did in the spring.”

Polk said there has still been a transition from the summer to fall practice, especially once the hitting began.

“What I’ve seen is once we put the pads on and some confusion just came out of nowhere,” Polk said. “So I’m hoping that it’s just because they are thinking about tackling. We’ve had some long three-hour practices. Practice times will get short starting Monday, next week. We’re going to get in game mode so practice time is going to get short. I think that’s going to make the kids a little more fresh and I think they’ll respond better that way.”

The Leopards will turn to a UIL-mandated eight-hour rule that limits athletics to eight hours per week.

Polk said the coaching staff have taken a concentrated approach to practice.

“The main change from last week to this week is we’re preaching a daily focus,” Polk said. “I’ve had coaches put down a focus for that day. For example, my focus one day was to walk around and just cut up and kid around with the kids just to build a little trust. Sometimes my focus is to be extremely hard on one individual group. They have no idea why, but every day I find something. That’s just to keep them on their toes.”

The Leopards are instituting a new approach to film their practices this season.

Drones will provide an aerial viewpoint for the coaching staff and Polk has been able to let coaches home in on the filming of practice.

“They’re just easier,” Polk said. “You don’t have to lug this big pole up to the field every day and set up the boom camera. You don’t have get the camera equipment out every day and put it up in the press box. You just keep the drones on chargers and next day of practice, you just grab a drone and your iPad and walk outside. I’ve got two coaches responsible for filming and they’re doing a great job.”

Gainesville will open the season at home against Vernon Aug. 30.

The Leopards scrimmage Pilot Point on Friday, Aug. 16 and Bonham on Thursday, Aug 22.

Polk said he could do without scrimmages.

“It wouldn’t bother me one bit if you said no more football scrimmages, because it’s just another pointless game that you may lose people [to injury],” Polk said. “When you’re in a small school, you just can’t afford to lose a lot of kids. I really, really, really limit the time of my starters. Scrimmages are mainly to evaluate the guys who are fighting for a spot or trying to move up from the JV team. We had eight returning starters on offense and eight or nine on defense and some of those guys have 21 games of experience. I know what they can do.”

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

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