The 2008 season got underway for the defending Class 5 state champion Waynesville High School football team last week.
Sort of.
With the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) doubling the number of playoff qualifying teams in football starting this fall it basically added a week to the season. Instead of just one team advancing to the state playoffs from the districts (nearly all the districts are made up of four schools), now there will be two teams from each district advancing on.
That forces the preseason jamborees around the state to move up a week and upping the start of the regular season to Aug. 29 to make room for the additional playoff round.
So when the dust settles, Missouri prep teams will have one less week of practice time to prep.
And that puts more importance on the days allotted for summer camps.
The WHS football squad split its summer camp into two weeks. The first was held June 9-12. The second was held last week.
Tiger head coach Rick Vernon said last week’s session, which attracted 87 players in grades 9-12, was treated much like the first week of practice.
“Since we’re going one less week of practices in Missouri we considered last week basically a week of practice,” Vernon said. “We’ve done a lot this summer and all the kids responded. Things that we wanted to add this year we got them in. Hopefully we’ll maintain that over these next two weeks we have off.”
Practice Begins Aug. 11
The Tigers will not take the field again until Aug. 11 – the first official day of practice.
On Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 the WHS players will report to practice for two-a-days, to be held 7-9:30 a.m. and 5-7:30 p.m. After that, teacher’s meetings begin at WHS and the Tigers switch to one practice a day the rest of the week, from 3:30-7 p.m.
The team’s first scrimmage is scheduled for around 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 at Slaughter Stadium.
Making things even tougher for the Tigers will be the fact that they will again be grouped in a very difficult district, along with Ozark Conference rivals Camdenton, Rolla and Lebanon.
“All of us are in the same situation,” Vernon said of the short practice period. “It will be equal for all of us. Teams who have more starters back may have more of an advantage.
“But we’ll be ready. We’ll probably put more emphasis on conditioning the first couple of weeks.”
Vernon says despite the tighter schedule he, along with most other coaches around the state, are pleased with the increase of playoff qualifiers.
“We’re all pleased,” he said. “During the next cycle in two years there may be a few changes. But this is a step in the right direction. If you have a good, competitive district like we have you’ll get two good teams out.”
The Tigers lost 23 seniors – including several all-staters — from last year’s squad, which finished 12-1 on its way to the state title.
In addition the squad recently found out it has lost an additional starter from last year. Miakel Williams, a starter in the WHS secondary last season who had been expected to be a key two-way performer this year, has transferred to a school in El Paso, Texas. The Tigers knew Williams would be transferring, but they thought it would be between semesters.
Overall, Vernon says the Tigers are ready to go.
“We are pleased (with the off-season),” Vernon said. “The kids have really responded and have worked hard. For the two weeks before practice we told them they need to continue to condition on their own then be ready to go.”