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Saturday May 28th, 2016 5:55AM

High school football gets underway today throughout state, northeast Ga

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Call it "first Friday."<br /> <br /> Today marks the official beginning of the 2014 high school football season in Georgia -- sort of.<br /> <br /> What July 25 really means is that GHSA programs may begin organized practices as part of an acclimation process toward next Friday's (Aug. 1) first practice in pads.<br /> <br /> The next few days were designed to allow players a taste of what is to come, while keeping them a little cooler.<br /> <br /> "Rather than just jumping straight into full pads we get a chance to watch them up close in just helmets running through drills," West Hall coach Tony Lotti said. "It's supposed to act as a transition to the heat of summer."<br /> <br /> The stipulation followed the deaths of two high school players in 2011 -- one of which was attributed to heat stroke.<br /> <br /> "It's smart because you may have a kid come out now that didn't go through spring and summer workouts and may not be ready for what's coming in practice," White County coach Bill Ballard said. "There aren't many kids like that anymore, but you have to take precautions."<br /> <br /> There are plenty of other safeguards in play, including GHSA-mandated heat and humidity restrictions -- measured together as the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature -- that stay in place year-round. <a href="http://www.ghsa.net/sites/default/files/documents/sports-medicine/HeatPolicy2013.pdf">Click here for a complete look at those restrictions</a>. And schools caught violating the heat policy may be fined between $500-1,000.<br /> <br /> Yet while safety is certainly the order of the week, it likely won't be the first thing on players' minds come this morning. And for those who have sweated through seemingly endless summer workouts, 7-on-7 tournaments and summer camps, today means that real football is tantalizingly close -- and the excitement is building.<br /> <br /> "From an official capacity it says it's time for football," Lotti said. "We're all pumped up and looking forward to Aug. 1. The kids work hard all summer, and they're just ready to get going."<br /> <br /> For most, today is just another big step toward kickoff.<br /> <br /> "We're already in shape; this is just part of the process," said Ballard, whose players -- like most throughout the state -- have been running and lifting since January. "We start as soon as we get back from Christmas break. Then you have a week off at the end of school and then the dead week (around July 4) and that's it. Even the kids that play other sports have been doing some training and are ready to get going. <br /> <br /> "This is one of those things we all want to get through. There's a lot of excitement in White County right now."<br /> <br /> And with just four more Fridays left before some teams kick off the 2014 campaign, the same can be said for players and football fans throughout northeast Georgia.
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