Clovis High School junior running back Phillip Williams cuts back against senior cornerback Chris Mondragon during Thursday’s first practice in full pads for the Wildcats at the high school. Photo by Eric Kluth
By Eric Butler
There’s a different sound to football practice once the pads are strapped on.
The general noises of breathing hard and coaches barking instructions suddenly are accompanied by loud pops and cracks of violent collisions.
The Wildcats put the pads on for the first time since Thursday — the first day allowed by the New Mexico Activities Association — and there was a distinctively different feel, players said.
“It’s a little tougher and a little hotter, you’ve got stuff weighing you down,” said Shea Chase, a 6-foot, 190-pound senior running back and linebacker. “But it’s the love of the game. You know, there’s nothing better than strapping on a helmet and hitting somebody.”
The 2003 Wildcats did have the helmets on earlier in the week with the start of fall practice Monday. But Thursday brought the addition of shoulder pads, thigh pads, knee pads and hip pads — “the whole works,” as Chase put it.
“We’re fixing to go defense after our break,” Chase said while on break after a two-hour morning session. “We’ll be lighting some people up; hopefully, there’ll be some popping.”
Senior Scott Fahsholtz said whether it’s teammates or opponents, hitting is the name of the game.
“You better hit ‘em. You’ve got to practice the way you play or you’re going to be in trouble in a game,” said Fahsholtz, who added the cooler temperatures the last two days in practice was a good thing — but only to a degree.
“It is a break from last year, because that was pretty hot. Yeah, it’s nice, but then again I kind of wish it was hotter to make us work harder,” Fahsholtz said. “You can tell the people that want to work.”
Fahsholtz, a 6-2, 245 pound offensive and defensive tackle, said Clovis head coach Eric Roanhaus hadn’t given any specific instructions on how hard to hit when the team wasn’t wearing the protective padding earlier in the week.
“He didn’t really say anything. You’ve got to be smart to play football — you’ve got to be smart enough not to hurt your teammates without pads,” said Fahsholtz, who added that he did get to “really hit” during the session Thursday morning. “Oh yeah, I got to hit somebody. I like it that way.”
Hitting wasn’t the only item on the practice agenda Thursday. The Wildcats also were subjected to numerous non-contact wind sprints.
“You’ve got stuff tied on to your body, so it’s a little tougher,” said Chase about the running drills. “When you get on the game jersey, it’s a little more flexible. But it’s not that bad — you’ve just got to tough it out. It’s all part of football right there.”