As the first official high school football practices of the 2022 season get underway this week, coaches across Alamance County will continue the process of implementing their schemes and philosophies.
Among them: Where and how to play athletes in order for coaches to get the most out of their respective teams.
When it comes to playing guys at a single position or utilizing that player on both sides of the ball, the decisions are as varied as the offenses and defenses the coaches employ.
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Eastern Alamance has long believed in keeping most of its athletes at a single position, occasionally having a player or two with significant time on both sides of the ball.
The Eagles made the switch around 2004, the same season they finished 0-11.
“Everybody thought we’d gone crazy,” longtime coach John Kirby said.
The idea at the time, Kirby said, was to give athletes more chance to see the field in practice and, eventually, games.
“When you’re doing that, you’re practicing a good amount of time," Kirby said. "I think a lot of schools do that still. At the time we decided that we wanted to try to two-platoon, our thought was instead of 11 spots where you can play, we’re giving someone the opportunity to play 22 spots.”
Doing so allowed the Eagles to shorten practices and increase the number of good vs. good situations in workouts.
Yet, that begs a question. Does that, generally speaking, mean your best 11 players aren’t always on the field?
“The answer is, no, we don’t. ... For the overall benefit of the program, you’ve got to stay with the system," Kirby said. "Sometimes we may not have our best 11 out there, but we’ve got the 11 out there that have practiced together all year.”
Getting best athletes on the field
Meanwhile, at Western Alamance, the Warriors have achieved success by often playing their top players as much as possible.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do,” Warriors coach Jeff Snuffer said. Every player learns an offensive position and a defensive position, Snuffer added.
At Williams, the Bulldogs are making a change in Patrick Stokes’ second season as the coach.
“You want to be as fresh as you can in the fourth quarter and the way to do that is to play guys limited amounts of time," he said.
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“I think you’ve got to two-platoon. We’re implementing this year what’s called a hybrid system, where you identify certain players that can play both sides of the ball, but simply playing them on both sides the entire game is not in our best interest.”
Southern Alamance takes a similar approach to Western Alamance, with athletes featuring on both sides of the ball regularly.
“I don’t know that it’s a philosophy,” Southern Alamance coach Fritz Hessenthaler said. “I think it’s more of a necessity.”
And, ultimately, the decision is already made for some coaches ahead of time, simply based on participation numbers.
It's been the status quo for several years at Cummings, but coach David Grimm said that might be changing. He's issued 60 helmets for summer workouts in 2022, and the program expects to field a JV team this season for the first time in several years
“Ideally, I’d like everyone to play. Get everyone in the game,” Cummings coach David Grimm said. “Lately, with COVID and other things, my numbers have just not been up to where they need to be to be successful at two-platooning. My philosophy the last couple of years has been get the best 11 players out there, let them play and hopefully we can sprinkle into subs.”
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This article originally appeared on Times-News: Why Alamance County football coaches vary on how best players are used