Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

SPORTS >> Injuries, heat aren't hurting Lions so far

IN SHORT: Searcy coach Bart McFarland says practicing in the hottest part of the day should pay dividends.

By JASON KING
Leader sports writer

The 2006 Searcy Lions started out with 70 players last week for the opening days of summer practice, but found that number to be 10 players less heading into the second week on Monday afternoon.

Second-year coach Bart McFarland set the practices to begin during the hottest part of the afternoon, a move he says was done to prepare his squad for the long haul.

“We wanted to be out here in the heat of the day,” McFarland said. “We want to get these kids acclimated to the heat. This will be the time of day that we practice once school starts and that’s when we’re going to play, so we just wanted to get them used to it now and get some consistency in our routine.”

The numbers for the Lions break down pretty evenly. The group will be led by a core of 18 seniors, with 21 juniors and 21 sophomores filling out the team. The biggest difference between 2005 and 2006 so far has been injuries, or fortunately lack thereof for Searcy in the first stages of the season.

At least five key players for the Lions were hurt in the first weeks of practice last season, a disadvantage they never seemed to recover from all season, particularly on the defensive side. McFarland says he hopes the injury bug is a thing of the past.

“We have three or four out right now, hopefully they will be back,” McFarland said. “It’s nothing compared to last year, so far. We are just keeping our fingers crossed. We don’t want that epidemic to happen again. The key for us this year will be to stay healthy, that’s the main thing.”

A combination of summer weight lifting and 7-on-7 tournaments kept the team busy for the past couple of months. Although the first week saw the Lions undergo some conditioning drills, McFarland said the team was in good enough shape that the team could focus on strategy as opposed to conditioning from day one.

“Our linemen can stand to improve some, but most of our skill players are in really good shape. We did some conditioning, but we’ve mainly been working on fundamentals and technique. We have form tackled every day, even before we had pads.”
Most of the Monday afternoon practice was dedicated to hitting and tackling. The team broke up into three squads that rotated between hitting the tackling dummy, one-on-one contact and hitting from the line.