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Upper Merion hoping early start pays off

UPPER MERION >> It is the middle of August, which means the high school football season is right around the corner and the Upper Merion squad just wrapped up its first week of practice Friday.

“It felt good,” Vikings coach Hal Smith said. “We’re a little bit upbeat about the season. We have some guys who played a lot of minutes last year — a lot of sophomores who played a lot of minutes last year due to injuries, so we have a lot of expectations for this year.”

Teams could get out on the field on Aug. 10 for five days of contact-free heat-acclamation practices, Smith said. After those five days, the teams are able to start regular practices Monday and are eligible to scrimmage on the first Saturday of the season, Aug. 22, when Upper Merion will travel to Lower Merion for a 10 a.m. scrimmage.

“For the most part I think everyone is going early,” Smith said of getting on the field on Aug. 10. “There might be a few schools who haven’t (practiced yet), but we’re not the only ones going early. It’s the new landscape now, limiting contact and trying to find new ways to practice to cut down on injuries and (improve) player safety and everything.”

Upper Merion’s practices have been two-a-days for the upperclassmen with the first session starting at 6:45 a.m.

“They’re used to it now,” Smith said of the early practices. “We get it done, we work hard and they show up.

“We’re excited. We have a couple of kids who showed us they are ready to play, which is a good thing. Kids we had question marks about, they came in and really showed excellent improvement since last year. I think the bond that all these guys have together as a family has been real good.”

Two players in particular who have stood out to Smith in the first week are senior wide receiver/defensive back Isaiah Graham-Mobley and junior running back Alex Panichi. Panichi was in line to get a lot of touches last year as a sophomore before tearing his ACL.

“With Isaiah, you can tell he gotten a lot faster over the summer — a lot stronger,” Smith said. “He’s going up getting balls, snatching out there, doing a great job. It’s early we haven’t really hit yet … but he’s showing something.

“Panichi shows that he’s getting to the holes fast and he’s hitting the holes hard. So that’s a good sign for him.”

Upper Merion is coming off a 2-9 campaign in 2014 and will kick off the 2015 regular season on Friday, Sept. 4 against Radnor.

 

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