Raising the intensity: Football teams hit the turf in full pads

Jul. 28, 2014 @ 06:29 PM

Quarterbacks and wide receivers get to have all the fun in the summer.

But when the area's high school football teams finally donned full pads on Monday, it was time for the linemen to get involved.

“As a defensive lineman, I love pads,” said Sevier County senior Seth Arwood. “Getting out here, just popping each other. Getting a little blood flowing, you know, right before the season. It’s honestly probably my best thing that I would do. I just love it. Seven-on-sevens are kind of hold back on contact, therefore as a defensive lineman not that fun to me.”

Arwood got his chance to get some contact in Monday with the Smoky Bears and new head coach Tony Linginfelter. Across the county, teams practiced in full gear after weeks of 7-on-7 passing leagues and summer workouts. Those kind of preparations are helpful, too, but Monday's sessions signaled a change in tone with the regular season less than a month away.

“It’s fun getting the guys all suited up and banging around a little bit,” said Seymour’s Blaise Rooney. “I think the competition's better because everyone’s kind of scared to get hurt sometimes when they don’t have pads on. When you have pads on, you know you can compete a lot more aggressively.”

The first game week isn't far off. The public high schools in Sevier County will participate in the Sevier County Jamboree Aug. 15 at Sevier County High School while The King’s Academy will participate in a jamboree at Central High in Knoxville the day before. The first official games are a week later on Aug. 22 when all five varsity programs are in action.

Rooney and the Eagles are welcoming a new head coach this season in former Ohio resident Jerry Cooper, who is changing the team's offense to a modified version of the Wing-T. Junior Jaylen Minefield said all the changes — including a new artificial turf field and revamped locker room — show that 2014 is a brand-new year for Seymour. The Eagles will try to snap a seven-game losing streak from last season when they host Sullivan North on Aug. 22.

“It’s just putting our record last year behind us,” Minefield said. “We have to realize this is a new year, completely new offense. We have a chance to be a good team this year.”

Sevier County is just as confident, but for different reasons. There was an earthshaking change in Sevierville this offseason with Steve Brewer stepping down as head coach after more than two decades in charge. But the Bears retain most of the rest of the coaching staff and plenty of experienced starters, including Arwood. 

Those veterans are optimistic that Monday was another step toward a fourth straight 10-win campaign.

“I love being out here with my team getting some good reps in offensively,” said senior Connor Bailey. “We’ve got some work to do defensively as well but we’ve got a lot of potential. We’re going to use that to the best of our ability.”