Skyline, Father Gabriel Richard aim for injury-free days as contact practices begin
Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com
Like most high school football teams across Michigan, Skyline High School strapped on pads Thursday for the first time in their fourth day of fall practice.
And for the first time since the Eagles first fielded a varsity program in 2010, the same head coach from the year before was standing on the sideline when they did it.
“I’m the first coach to last this long,” Lee Arthur said. “That’s important.”
After two, one-year varsity coaches in 2010 and 2011, Arthur is back for his second season in 2013. He coached the offense in 2011 before becoming head coach, and has been with many of the veterans for their entire time on varsity. He also returns most of his assistants, giving the Eagles a measure of continuity he says they have needed.
“For a kid it’s like having a parent one day and then having another parent the next day,” Arthur said. “You can’t build a family that way.”
The Eagles spent the second session working on defensive formations, doing little hitting despite wearing pads for the first time this week. Arthur said his goal on the first day of hitting is to take it slow to avoid any major injuries, particularly concussions, during the first contact activities in months.
Across town at Father Gabriel Richard, the philosophy was the same: no injuries.
“We took it kind of easy, we’ve got 30 kids on the varsity roster, so we don’t need to be killing each other,” FGR coach Brian Lemons said. “We’ll turn it up a notch here in the second half.”
Thirty players marks a slightly smaller roster than normal for the Irish, after a large class graduated, including 11 players that went on to play college football. That group helped lead the Irish to within a game of the state finals last year.
Now, a new group is being indoctrinated into Lemons’ philosophy, which includes a military-type approach to practice.
“Every time we switch from segment to segment, there’s an objective that has to be reached,” Lemons said. “And our goal is that objective, so we try to instill having pride in our work, having a certain amount of chain of command, and then they just have to fulfill their part of the mission.”