Lake Norman & Mooresville

Summer heat doesn't keep players off field

Hopewell running back Dondre Lewis-Freeman cooled off during a break from workouts.

"It's been kind of hot," he said.

He is one of the more than 100 players who have spent their summer sweating it out in the 90-degree weather to get ready for football season.

To combat the heat, the Titans have held workouts early in the morning. They've also spent a considerable part of that time inside.

Titans coach Chris Rust said he usually starts the day inside before alternating between indoor and outdoor drills.

"We're only out in the heat for an hour, hour and a half," he said. "We're trying to gradually get them used to it."

Rust said that he makes sure to give his players ample water breaks so they can stay hydrated.

"Any time a kid feels like they need some water, he can stop in the middle of a drill and get it, too," he said. "I'm not one of those who take any chances. I've been around the game too long."

Rust said working out during the summer helps them get used to the heat the team will face in the first month or so of the football season.

"Last year, the heat during our first game was unbearable, so you have to get these kids used to it," he said.

Lewis-Freeman said acclimating to the heat comes naturally.

"Once you keep doing it over and over, I guess we get used to it," he said. "When the season comes and it's hot and we have shoulder pads, we'll be ready to go."

Wearing all of their equipment not only traps the heat in, but it also adds weight that makes players have to work harder to run - and that's where the summer conditioning comes in handy.

Hopewell's football team has focused on conditioning and on getting stronger. The Titans have been spending a lot of time in the weight room this offseason.

Rust said the team has also worked on drills that will improve players' agility as well as their footwork.

But he also makes sure to not go too far with conditioning.

"We don't go out and run 20 or 30 minutes at the end of practice and do sprints," said Rust. "We just try to keep a tempo during practice."

The coaching staff have used these summer workouts as a way to introduce new concepts, but mostly as a way to reinforce the basics.

"Some of our older guys know a little more, but our younger guys see the system that we're putting in each day and they can learn from that," said Rust.

The Titans have been alternating their focus on offense and defense, focusing on one every other day.

They've also spent some time looking for players who could excel on special teams.

Rust said his goal for workouts is for his team to get their timing back, so that when football season begins they can go full force.

The time on the field this summer has already gotten Rust excited for the upcoming season.

"We've got a good group of guys that I'm excited to work with," he said. "We have over 30 seniors, so we have a lot of experience coming back."

The only disappointment Rust has had is the small turnout of ninth-graders.

"We've only had about 20," he said. "I think a lot of that has to do with the new school (Hough) opening up."

Rust said that they normally have at least 40 freshmen at workouts.

But defensive lineman Givonne Evans said he thinks the team will be fine this year.

"This is the same team we had two years ago that went undefeated in JV," he said. "We could do big things."