With the unusually mild weather, Van Buren football coach Brooks Coatney said his team has been able to accomplish a lot of work.
"The weather has been great because we have not had to worry so much about heat-related injuries as we have in the past," Coatney said. "That means teams can be more productive in practice. We’ve had good effort during the first three weeks."
Because of his no-huddle philosophy on offense, and the fact that the Van Buren defense will see that type of offense in the 7A-West, Coatney said the fast-paced practices get his team ready for the season.
"We would rather have a fast-paced practice where we emphasize conditioning rather than have a slower-paced workout and have wind sprints after practice," Coatney said. "The up-tempo practices are tough on everyone. We have emphasized to the players the pace that we practice. The newcomers have to adjust themselves to this.
"We want to practice like it’s a game situation. We want to get as many snaps in practice that are game-simulated. The practices also helps our defense, too, because they are going to play teams that are up-tempo as well. We have some tough, physical practices and the players have gotten through it.
"We still challenging them to be mentally tough and get their bodies in shape and give 100 percent effort when you get your chance in practice."
With a home scrimmage looming for Monday against three-time defending state champion Greenwood, Coatney wants his team to still treat it like a practice instead of a game. The scrimmage will be a controlled at first as each team gets a set number of plays and then the two teams will play two quarters like a regular game.
"I believe Greenwood sees our scrimmage like we do in that it is just a practice but it is with someone else," Coatney said. "I know they are ready to hit someone else, and that is good, but I am more focused on where we are from a conditioning standpoint.
"In a scrimmage, you are less worried about production, execution and efficiency. I am more worried about how we are conditioning and getting ready for (the Alma game)."
Coatney said that though the scrimmage is important, the season opener Sept. 6 against rival Alma is the more important game.
"This is my 10th year as a coach and the first game has always weighed on my mind," Coatney said. "Not so much who you are playing but are you ready to play and look like a football team. All you can do right now is practice and simulate as much as you can a game-like atmosphere. So far, they have responded well and we’re happy with that."
With a new defensive scheme and as many as 11 new starters on offense, Coatney said a lot of time in the spring and summer has been devoted to instruction.
"We have done a fair amount of teaching," Coatney added. "We’re trying to get as many reps as we can in practice, but also making sure we are stopping to make sure the players are on the same page as coaches as well as spending a lot of time in the film room.
"With football essentially a year-round sport now, we’re able to do a lot of teaching in the spring and in summer workouts. The kids, though, have picked up well and we’re pleased with their progress."