VHS practice

Valdosta High football players practice Monday afternoon in pads, the first day of school, and the first day they can practice in pads.

VALDOSTA — These were not optimum conditions for practicing in full pads.

Valdosta High’s football team put on full pads for the first time Monday. It was the first day Georgia public schools are allowed to put on full pads and have full-contact drills, and the Wildcats practiced for around two-and-a-half hours.

Unfortunately, the team found itself conducting that full-contact practice on a day when the thermometer topped out at a blistering 101 degrees. And unfortunately, it was also the first day of school, so practice came after school let out — in the hottest part of the day.

“It was the hottest day we’ve had all year,” Tomberlin said. “I’ll say this, with all that was working against us — the first day of school, the first day in pads, the hottest day of the year — I thought this was the best first day one of my teams has ever had under those circumstances. They worked through that heat, and worked through those distractions.”

The new Valdosta head coach did, however, see a lot of things that need to be worked on.

“It wasn’t perfect, though. We’ve got a long way to go,” Tomberlin said. “We made 1,000,001 mistakes. But I thought the effort and the leadership were real good.”

But Tomberlin and his coaching staff still have almost four weeks to work out those mistakes and get the team ready for its season opener. Valdosta kicks off the season on Friday, Sept. 1, against Jordan High of Sandy, Utah at Cleveland Field.

Monday’s practice ended a few minutes earlier than expected. The team’s lightning detector indicated there was lightning within 3-6 miles of the school. Once that happened, Valdosta trainer Brad Miles, who handles the device, told Tomberlin, and they got the team off the field quickly.

A year ago, Valdosta ended the season with only about 60 players, much less than the Wildcats have traditionally had. This year, under Tomberlin, it’s a much different story.

At Monday’s practice, Valdosta had 104 varsity players, and about 40 freshman players.

“I’m happy with the numbers. That’s a lot of kids,” Tomberlin said. “We may lose a few, and obviously not all of them are going to be good football players. But we’re pleased with that many kids out here.”

Valdosta has so many players, in fact, that for the first time in several years, it has had to give out duplicate numbers. There will be eight numbers worn by two different players. In football, two players are allowed to have the same number, but can’t be on the field at the same time.

Every number from 1-99 will be used this year, except for No. 39, which was retired in 1988 in memory of the late Kenny Rose.

When Valdosta inked a deal with Under Armour to supply the team’s uniforms and other gear, it seemed like a great deal, with the only drawback being the Wildcats would have to change the design of their uniforms.

That was before the pants arrived and were too short. When team pictures come out, it will almost look like some of the players are wearing shorts.

But Valdosta is shipping the pants back to Under Armour, and the problem is supposed to be fixed in time for the Wildcats’ season opener on Sept. 1.

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