Cartersville head football coach Conor Foster fully believes his team would have been ready to open the season Aug. 21 against Morrow. But he's not going to complain about two extra weeks to try to make up for an offseason unlike any other.
The GHSA announced Monday
that the regular season would start the week of Sept. 4. It gives the Canes an extra fortnight to prep for the start of Foster's second season.
Even with no spring practices and a restriction-laden summer, he knows his players would have been able to start the season as originally scheduled.
“I think we could have been ready to play,” Foster said of playing Aug. 21. “I don’t have any doubts. We have quite a few returning starters on both sides. We had quite a bit of carryover from last year’s staff.
“There’s some new wrinkles every year based on what we think guys can do well. Summer and the offseason is a big part of figuring out what they can and can’t do. I feel good about our base packages. I feel like our guys are really comfortable in those things already.”
That being said, Foster is hoping the two-week delay isn't an omen of things to come. The GHSA's decision to keep the acclimation period, which will begin this coming week, on schedule makes him feel better about the situation.
“I’m pleased that we’re continuing to move forward,” Foster said. “I’m cautiously optimistic. I think the GHSA has done a good job of easing us into the prospect of having a season. The state has responded well, and I hope that we can continue to do so.”
For his program personally, Foster continues to be impressed with the progress his athletes and coaches have been making during an unprecedented situation.
“Very pleased with our maturity, very pleased with our leadership and just the accountability across the board in our program,” Foster said. “You’ve had guys who have been excited and eager every day. Sometimes it takes the prospect of something being taken away from you to appreciate it. …
“I’m excited to see all of that work getting closer to coming to fruition.”
Guidance for the acclimation period was sent out Wednesday
by the GHSA. One of the major updates is the removal of a limit on group sizes, allowing entire teams to practice together for the first time since last fall.
“Just getting back out there next week with our full team is exciting,” Foster said. “When we told the kids that we would be able to have everybody out there together, their reaction was joyful.
“I’m excited to see those guys come together. That’s a huge part of what we do in the offseason and throughout the summer is to build that team chemistry, camaraderie and get those guys to play hard for each other.”
Foster then reiterated the importance of team building and how much emphasis will be placed on that during the added time to prepare for the season.
“When we sit down and kind of make our priorities going forward, team chemistry will be a huge piece of it, as well as continuing to build our conditioning, to install offensive and defensive game plans, and working on our special teams,” Foster said. “There’s a lot to do. Thankful to have a little bit more time.
“The intriguing part is trying to find that balance with two extra weeks. That can really be a grind. We don’t want injuries, so we’ll have to be smart, we’ll have to be creative and we’ll have to come up with a great plan. I trust that our coaching staff will be able to do so.”
Part of that blueprint would seem to be the approach of only playing one scrimmage. It came out this week that scrimmages will be allowed. Some programs, including Adairsville and Cass, have already confirmed the addition of a second scrimmage, which will take place Aug. 21.
Foster said the plan is for Cartersville to play just one scrimmage Aug. 28 at Dalton.
“Right now, that’s not in our plans,” Foster said of adding a second scrimmage. “That may change. I definitely think there are some pros and cons to it. I’ll just leave it at that.
“Right now, we’re focusing on us, and we’re going to try to make sure we are prepared physically, mentally, doing everything we can to make sure we have our young men ready to play, which includes getting them to that first game healthy.”