It isn't often you hear a football coach describe the first day of practice, a day teams finally get to hit the field for some organized work, as "mundane," but that was B.J. Payne's assessment on Friday afternoon.
The Hilton Head Island High School coach admitted the sentiment after a long morning of practice, during which his Seahawks donned helmets, ran through a few sets and broke out some 7-on-7 work.
"It's one of those things, until we get the pads put on, it's kind of the same," Payne said.
Many Seahawks players have been working through similar drills since spring ball and all through the summer, so there wasn't much new to break out on Friday.
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"It's more of a getting to the physical aspect, which is coming next week," Payne said. "For the most part, really happy where we're at."
Hilton Head High was one of seven area schools that commenced with their 2014 football campaigns with practice on Friday, and like each of those schools, the Seahawks are hoping to take a big step forward this year. They'll get a huge boost from the return of quarterback Aiden Hagerty, who missed most of last year with injuries. The junior was back on the practice field Friday, and said he felt like he got off to a good start.
"It's great being back at full speed with no injuries," Hagerty said. "I'm back at 100 percent now, ready to go."
Payne said the most positive thing he took away from Friday's session was the retention many of his players showed in regard to systems and play calls. That experience should help speed things along in the weeks leading up to the Seahawks' opener at home on Aug. 22 against Ridgeland-Hardeeville.
"You can install more then, once they have all the base stuff down," Payne said. "Knowing that they've got that stuff down is obviously good."
All of the area's public schools started practice Friday, along with Beaufort Academy, under new coach Scott Richards.
At Beaufort High School, Eagles coach Mark Clifford scrapped plans for two practices and allotted the bulk of the time for the morning, in anticipation of afternoon storms.
He preached the need for toughness from his players, more of whom will be asked to play both sides of the ball this season.
The Eagles will drop to Class 3-A, and Clifford is preparing them for a difficult region schedule.
Among Beaufort High's immediate needs are depth on the lines and a tight end to replace Stephen Baggett. Clifford said about 10 players rotated through the position Friday and some players might fill roles they don't seek out.
"I talked to them about having to sacrifice and having to do some things that's not their passion, as far as positions go," Clifford said. "Everyone was accepting of that; everybody played two positions in practice today, and we'll do the same tomorrow."
Bluffton coach Ken Cribb, whose team got started at 7 p.m., said the Bobcats were ready to roll and anxious to get on the field.
"I'm really excited," Cribb said. "It's been a long way. Kids are excited. We're going to do plays and conditioning right away."
Battery Creek High School also planned to practice Friday evening. As coach Jim Shuman prepared for a coaches meeting, he said the Dolphins' biggest issue as the season begins is on the offensive and defensive lines, where younger players will require some coaching.
Shuman said he plans to use the helmet-and-shorts days to evaluate talent and put his players through speed drills.
"All the coaches and players are excited to get going," he said.