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PRACTICE GEARS UP BUT HITS BRAKES

When the Florida Legislature passed a bill pushing back the starting date for the state's public schools, the collective glee of prep football coaches may have rivaled that of the students.

More off-days in August, after all, equated to more two-a-days in the preseason. For years, coaches had been hamstrung by summers that seemed to annually shorten, resulting in the first day of practice virtually coinciding with the first day of school.

Now, it appeared, they had some breathing room.

But Hillsborough County has taken some of that breath away for the sake of the players' oxygen supply.

In accordance with a recommendation of the Florida High School Athletic Association, county public school teams, allowed to begin practice Monday, may not practice twice in one day for another week.

Combine that with the fact coaches — at least those who teach in a local public school — must report to work on Friday, and the opportunity to re-establish a full slate of preseason two-a-days has regressed from golden to cubic zirconium.

"Is (the later school starting date) going to make a big difference for us? I don't think so," Armwood coach Sean Callahan said.

"You're allowed two-a-days, one-a-day, two-a-days. So in our second week, we'll probably get two two-a-days in and then that would be it because school starts (Aug. 20). So it isn't like we're going to be inundated with a bunch of (practice)."

A "recommendation" by the FHSAA calls for no two-a-day session until the eighth calendar day of the season, and no consecutive days of double sessions. FHSAA spokesman Jack Watford said none of the recommendations is required.

But county athletic director Lanness Robinson said his district has adopted the FHSAA recommendations as guidelines, mandating a 2-1-2-1-2 format for the second week of practice as a safety precaution.

"The recommendations that they have are the same recommendations that came from the national federation, and we have taken them and altered them to fit our situation," Robinson said.

"It's our recommendations, other than the fact we have been advised by our school board attorney to make them our requirements."

The result: The ambition some coaches once harbored for two-a-days now is bordering on ambivalence — at least in some circles.

"The teachers start (Friday), so it's not like we can have a practice in the morning anyway," Brandon second-year coach John Lima said.

"So if you do it, it's going to be from 3 or 3:30 or 4, and then there's really not a lot of time left in the day to really have a real two-a-day. We're going to wait and see. If it seems like everybody's taking advantage of it, we don't want to get behind.

"I don't think we necessarily need it."

Joey Knight can be reached at (813) 226-3350 or jknight@sptimes.com.

Kickoff Classics

All games Aug. 24 at 7:30 unless noted

Alonso at Countryside

Armwood at Lake Gibson

Berkeley Prep at Northside Christian

Blake at Boca Ciega

Bloomingdale at Riverview

Sickles at Brandon

Jesuit at Chamberlain

Gaither at Durant

King at East Bay

Freedom at Zephyrhills

Lakeland at Hillsborough

Titusville Astronaut at Jefferson

Newsome at Lennard

Leto at Spoto

Gibbs at Middleton

Plant at Wharton

Plant City at Tampa Bay Tech

Tampa Catholic at Robinson

Cambridge at Winter Haven All Saints', 6:30

Tampa Bay Christian at Bradenton St. Stephens, Aug. 25, 1

FAST FACTS

Important dates

Monday: First day Florida's high school teams may practice

Thursday: First day teams may practice in pads

Aug. 13: First day county public schools may hold two-a-days

Aug. 24: Kickoff Classics (preseason games)

Aug. 31: First night of regular season

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