How excited is new Ridgeland-Hardeeville head coach Jahmaal Nelson about the start of practice Friday?
"I'll probably go to sleep with my practice gear on, jump up out of the bed as soon as my alarm clock goes off," Nelson said.
The former Dorman High School star took over as the Jaguars' leader after former coach Blake Raley stepped down. Sitting in his sparsely-decorated office just over a week into the job, it is clear Nelson already feels at home.
"Everything that I've heard since I've been here, and that I've seen, it's been about family, it's been about team," Nelson said. "Those are things that I want to be a part of. That's what really attracted me here."
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Nelson said his first impressions of the school and his team have been "excellent," and he is already focused on implementing changes both big and small to Ridgeland-Hardeeville's program. For now, he is focused on getting his players to be more comfortable with his system -- encompassing responsibilities and expectations both on and off the field -- and with his coaching philosophy.
"I tell them: The things that I change and the things that I try to instill, it's all about life," Nelson said. "Because football is just a part, a little part of your life."
Nelson hopes those little things will add up to a productive preseason, starting Friday. He warned his team that he'll be ready to go "full tilt."
"I'm just balled up with energy ready to hit the field," Nelson said.
The area's other public schools, along with SCISAA school Beaufort Academy, kick off their seasons on Friday, as well.
Ken Cribb's Bluffton Bobcats will hold practice at 7 p.m. Friday, looking to get back on track after missing the playoffs last season. Hilton Head Island coach B.J. Payne will hit the field bright and early, going from 7-9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Jim Shuman's battery Creek Dolphins will hit the field even earlier, from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m., while Jerry Hatcher's Whale Branch Warriors start practice at 8 a.m.
Mark Clifford's Beaufort High Eagles open practice at 9 a.m., while Scott Richards and Beaufort Academy open practice at 5 p.m.
Friday's practice schedule
Battery Creek, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Beaufort Academy, 5 p.m.
Beaufort High, 9 a.m.
Bluffton, 7-10 p.m
Hilton Head Island, 7-9 a.m., 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville, 9:30-10:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m.
Whale Branch, 8 a.m.