Talking Practice: Texas, Illinois Revise Policies
December 20, 2013
By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor
Coaches and players in Texas and Illinois adapted to new football practice limitations this fall, with the Texas policy focusing on contact, and the Illinois regulation emphasizing length of preseason practices.
Following are the main changes those states put in place heading into the 2013-14 season:
The University Interscholastic League, which governs school sports in Texas, put into writing that, “During the regular season and postseason, no football player is allowed to participate in more than ninety (90) minutes of full contact practice per week,” effective with the first day of practice this fall.
The complete policy follows:
For the purposes of the of rule, "full contact" is defined as football drills or live game simulations where "live action" occurs. Live action, as defined by USA Football, is contact at game speed where players execute full tackles at a competitive pace taking players to the ground. A team may continue to dress in full pads for practice, but may only participate in live action drills and game time simulations no more than ninety minutes per athlete per week. It is assumed that when players are in shells (shorts, shoulder pads, and helmets) no live action drills or simulations will occur. This rule is intended to limit live action drills and simulations and not the number of practices a team may participate in full pads. A team may participate in "air," "bags," "wrap," and "thud" drills and simulations at any point. These contact levels are defined below:
• Air - Players should run unopposed without bags or any opposition
• Bags - activity is executed against a bag, shield or pad to allow for a soft-contact surface, with or without the resistance of a teammate or coach standing behind the bag.
• Wrap - Drills run at full speed until contact, which is above the waist with the players remaining on their feet.
• Thud - Same as wrap but tempo is competitive with no pre-determined winner and the players are not tackling to the ground.
The rule came to the UIL Legislative Council as a recommendation from the UIL Medical Advisory Committee, a permanent advisory committee to the Legislative Council which meets twice each year to discuss and review safety policies for UIL participants. The committee, which is made up of leading medical professionals in various specialties and includes representatives from the Texas High School Coaches Association, the Texas Girls Coaches Association, and the Texas State Athletic Trainer Association, unanimously recommended this limitation in full-contact football practice.
The rule formulates into a formal policy the existing actions of the majority of coaches across Texas, and most coaches have had to make few adjustments, if any. In fact, according to a story on statesman.com, the proposal caused more of an uproar on social media than from coaches.
“It’s not going to affect us in anyway,” Vandegrift HS coach Drew Sanders said in the story. “Most good coaches were way below that 90-minute amount already. Prior to legislation we still monitored it ourselves – the only change is now we have to keep up a log more publicly.”
Illinois put standards in place for its first 14 days of football practices, known as the state’s Preseason Football Acclimatization Practice Period. At the core of the policy is a three-hour practice limit for the first five days, during which teams can also conduct a one-hour walk-through.
Teams must observe a minimum two hours rest between the practices and walk-throughs. Players may wear helmets only on the first two days, then helmets and shoulder pads for the next three. From days seven through 14 of the acclimatization period, schools may practice for a maximum of five hours per day, as long as that day is followed by a three-hour day, or an off day. During the five-hour days, no session can last more than three hours and must include a two-hour break between practices. Full pads may be worn for the final seven dates leading up to the first contest.
“This policy was the result of a collaborative effort between the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and the Football Advisory Committee,” said SMAC committee member and University of Illinois Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery Dr. Preston M. Wolin. “The guidelines are based on the most recent scientific evidence, as well as the expertise of the coaches who will help implement them. Both committees believe the guidelines represent a significant positive contribution to the health of our athletes.”
“This new policy undoubtedly changes the way we, as coaches, approach preseason practice,” said Metamora HS coach Pat Ryan, who is a member of the FAC and a past President of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association. “Coaches have to get more creative with when and how they schedule practices, as well what they do with their time. The proposals were strongly supported by both committees. It is a crucial final step to the process of being able to effectively prepare our teams in a safe manner. Change is always difficult, but the game is changing and we need to adapt to continue to put the safety of our players first.”
The IHSA offered multiple interactive online webinar meetings for high school coaches leading up to the start of practice where questions were answered, along with further clarifications on the policy and the science behind it.
“I think most coaches understood that changes were on the horizon,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “We wanted to be in a position to give our coaches as much information as possible to make sure they are comfortable with the new policy. Their input will be critical moving forward as we develop educational materials, like a best practices presentation. I commend our committees on a policy that is supported by medical experts, football coaches and school administrators.”
Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
May 26, 2023
Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.
The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).
Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.
See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:
Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.
On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.
A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.
Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.
Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.
Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.
Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).
Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.
Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.
Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.
PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)