MOULTRIE – The Colquitt County football team will begin making up for lost time when it holds its first practice in full pads on Saturday at the high school.
The Packers will take advantage of the first day of Georgia High School Association-mandated practice in full uniforms when they take the field from 9 a.m.-11 a.m.
Colquitt will have three weeks to get ready for its Aug. 21 scrimmage at Lee County.
The season-opener is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4, at Marietta. The Blue Devils are the defending Class 7A state champions.
The Packers are coming off the annual “acclimation” week, which helps teams, still not in full pads, adjust to the heat.
Getting into full gear will be a boost for the Packers, as it is for all teams in the state.
There was no spring football, called off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the summer schedule was restricted to conditioning by the GHSA. There were no 7-on-7 competitions or OTAs (organized team activities), which traditionally have helped teams prepare for the coming season.
The GHSA allowed teams to begin modified sessions – in which teams had to practice in groups not larger than 20, later, 50 players and coaches - on June 8, but it was not until last week that that the full team could assemble.
Some position coaches had not been able to work with their players during the summer, Packers coach Justin Rogers said.
“It was like a family reunion,” Rogers said. “It was so nice to have everyone together.”
The team still has to deal with the protocols in place to keep players and staff as safe as possible from the effects of the highly contagious coronavirus.
One player and long-time trainer Ryan Kebler were infected, but both have recovered and are back to work.
Rogers is pleased to finally get the team in a position to formulate depth charts and see how young and/or inexperienced players perform when the hitting starts.
The Packers do not have many returning starters so the loss of spring and summer drills were particularly harmful.
“We are just going to play the hand we are dealt,” Rogers said, adding that having an extra two weeks to prepare for Marietta and the rest of the 10-game schedule will be helpful.
The Packers were originally slated to open the season against Marietta on Aug. 21, but the GHSA voted to move the start of the season back two weeks.
Those extra two weeks are especially welcomed as the Packers seek to replace two-year starting quarterback Jaycee Harden, who has signed with Valdosta State.
The summer 7-on-7 schedule is pivotal to the development of quarterbacks, who can see a variety of defenses during those sessions.
Rising junior Zane Touchton is the most experienced of the three quarterbacks looking to replace Harden, who threw 62 touchdown passes – second-most in Packers history - in his career.
But Touchton threw just 11 passes last season, completing five for 110 yards and one touchdown.
Dijmon “Baby D” Wheeler, who was a prime target of Harden’s last year when he caught 16 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns, also is getting work at quarterback.
Xavier Williams, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound transfer from Ola High in Henry County, is the third quarterback in the mix.
“They are getting better,” Rogers said of the quarterback candidates. “It’s been fun watching those guys improve.”
Rogers said he is looking forward to the scrimmage against Lee County, a program that won back-to-back Class 6A state championships in 2017 and 2018.
And he is familiar with Trojans head coach Dean Fabrizio, having led his Jones County Greyhounds against Lee County in the Corky Kell Classic in 2016.
While he was an assistant at Griffin in 2010, Rogers also went up against Fabrizio’s Trojans.
After its back-to-back state titles, Lee County went 11-2 last year.
“They are as talented as anyone in the state,” Rogers said. “And they are just what we wanted, someone who could test us.”
Fabrizio has compiled a 92-38 record while in Leesburg.
The Packers last met Lee County in 2014 and 2015 in a pair of Region 1-6A games, winning 58-14 and 54-17.
PACKERS NOTES: Twiggs County, a Class A public school, won’t play football this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The school board has announced that its schools would open Aug. 17 with virtual classrooms. There will be no extracurriculars.
Former Packers quarterback Steve Krajewski, now playing at the University of Connecticut, has been named to the American Athletic Conference All-Academic team.