Floyd County football teams are jumping at the chance to get on the field and under the lights in full pads for the first time this season.
Pepperell will hold their third annual Midnight Madness event on Monday night, while Armuchee introduces fans to a similar event called “Midnight at the Mooch” at the same time.
The Coosa Eagles are also holding practice a minute after midnight. More and more, programs are taking the earliest advantage of the Georgia High School Association’s rule prohibiting teams from practicing in pads until Aug. 1 — Tuesday.
“We’ve been in shorts now for about 30 practices, and Monday night will be the first time everybody is on the field and ready to play,” Pepperell head coach Rick Hurst said. “And just getting to play under the lights and get a feel for things is special.”
With renovations still going on at Dragon Stadium, Hurst decided to move the actual scrimmage to Valhalla at Berry College. The pregame festivities will still be at Pepperell High School starting at 7 p.m., including food trucks and face painting. The team will get on a bus to Berry around 11 p.m. in preparation for the 12:01 a.m. intra-squad game. Meanwhile, just north of Berry, Armuchee coach Muhammad Abdellatif hopes the Indians’ own event can get some traction. After hearing about events like it throughout the South and Midwest, and hearing that his kids wanting to do it, he had no problem with making it happen.
Abdellatif admits that he wishes the event was on a weekend, but he still expects a large turnout on Monday night.
And, similar to Hurst, he wants the event to be special for his players as they finally get to put on pads.
“First and foremost, I want the kids to have a great experience while here,” Abdellatiff said. “And if they think this will add to the experience and give them something to look forward to, then I’m all for it.”
It’s something that’s become an immediate success in the Lindale community, and something that appears to be spreading.
Hurst started the tradition of a midnight practice while at Central Gwinnett back in 2004 and carried it over when he became head coach at Eastside in Covington. At each stop, the excitement and positive feedback from the event grew every year. But when he got to Pepperell, Hurst didn’t have to wait for the excitement to reach a fever pitch. It was there from year one.
“Coming here, they went crazy with it. I had never seen tailgates for an event like this,” Hurst said. “The first year, I remember pulling into the parking lot and people are grilling and playing cornhole already. I’m thinking, ‘Man, I came to the right place.’”
Hurst does not intend for anything to get too physical for his players, but he still wants them to show some excitement. It’ll be the first time the entire team is on the field and seeing real action, and that will be beneficial to Hurst and his coaching staff.
“Everybody is an All-American when they’re playing in shorts and a helmet on. But when the pads go on that’s when you really get an idea of who’s ready to help you,” Hurst said. “So we’ll be able to answer some questions.”