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NTL FOOTBALL: ATHENS TAKES THE FIELD TO KICK OFF 'HEAT ACCLIMATION' WEEK (23 PHOTOS) (2022-08-08)

By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
ATHENS — With temperatures approaching 90 and high humidity, Athens had more than 40 players in uniform to kick off ‘heat acclimation week,” and are expecting several more by the end of the week.

Longtime Athens coach Jack Young said the heat could have been much worse had it not been for the cloud cover.

“We caught a little break … it was pretty hot when we got out here, but after about 10 minutes the breeze started blowing,” said Young. “It’s actually been pretty pleasant, so we’re not going to complain.”

A lot of programs use the “heat week” for conditioning, but the Wildcats spent the majority of their practice working on the fundamentals and the playbook.

“These kids have worked hard this summer,” said Young. “We took 35 kids to a team camp recently. We have 43 dressed today, and, we have two or three who are on vacation and coming in later this week, as well as a couple more waiting on physicals.

“We anticipate being right around 50,” noted Young. “We’re happy with our numbers, and we have a big freshman class, so we’re super-excited.

“We haven’t had 50 in uniform in quite a while,” he added. “We’re hoping to get there, that would be awesome.”

The numbers could swell even more within the week, thanks to Sayre not fielding a team this fall.

“My understanding is there are a few (Sayre) players transferring in for academic programs … once that all gets worked out we could have as many as four more here with helmets on,” said Young.

“Technically, if they are not fully enrolled in our school, no matter what type of student they are, they can’t join us (for practice),” he noted. “If they’re here, they are enrolled as an Athens student.”

Young doesn’t think the spectacle that’s surrounded Sayre’s failure to field a varsity team, and the district’s request to co-op with Athens this fall has been a distraction for his team.

“I had a meeting with our upper classmen last week to make sure we weren’t getting distracted,” said Young. “Our kids are focused and ready to go.

“I don’t think it’s been a distraction,” added Young. “We had a great team camp … we have 43 helmets on the field, and there are a lot of quality young men here.”

The Athens Area School Board will vote Tuesday night on whether to accept students enrolled at Sayre to play football at Athens this fall. If they accept the Sayre students, Athens will not be allowed to participate in the District 4 or PIAA football playoffs this season or next.

“The one thing I’ll say is I had a sit-down with our upper classmen, and our school board and administration understands where we stand,” said Young. “It’s on the (school board) to make those kinds of decisions.”

Athens opens the regular season Aug. 26 when it hosts Executive Education Academy, a charter school in Allentown.

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PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.

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