FLORENCE — Sheffield High’s Martez Smith, Dontavious Long and Will Armstrong each have two summer jobs.
Smith works at a fast food restaurant, Armstrong has a job with Sheffield Utilities and Long helps his grandfather cut grass.
And then there’s the summer job they share — making the Sheffield football team better.
Those three and football players from several other Shoals high schools took time to talk with reporters Tuesday on day two of the TimesDaily’s prep football media days session at UNA’s Flowers Hall.
Cherokee, Colbert Heights, Florence, Hatton, Mars Hill, Muscle Shoals, Rogers, Sheffield and Shoals Christian were present Tuesday.
But the interview sessions were merely a quick break from the summer grind of running, pushing sleds, lifting weights and doing whatever else is required to prepare for the 2019 football season.
As you might expect, the early hour at which many teams work out is a challenge for high school boys who would otherwise like to sleep a little longer.
But though Sheffield went 6-4 last year and made the Class 2A playoffs, the Bulldogs have only one playoff victory in the last six years. So here in June they're already motivated to work toward something better.
“The good thing is to see the change that is made,” Sheffield’s Armstrong said of the workouts. “You can come in one week and struggle with that weight and you work hard for it. And the next week you come in and if you can go up five of 10 pounds on a bench press, that is just great.”
Rogers High had consecutive undefeated regular seasons in 2016 and 2017, and though the Pirates lost a lot of strong players after that they still won seven games last year.
Second-year head coach Jerry Fulks said the winter is about bulking up and the summer is about getting fit.
“We try to get as strong and as fat as we can in the winter, because you’re going to go through fall camp and you’re going to lose some weight, so you’ve got to come in heavy so you’re not skinny when you get through with fall,” Fulks said. “What we’re trying to do is get in shape, get some of that winter weight off of us, get our feet good, and then start building that ‘win in the fourth quarter’ mindset.
“We try to add some competition in there, which helps,” he added.
Muscle Shoals, similarly, has had several good seasons in a row but seeks greater postseason success. The Trojans have at least one playoff win each of the last eight years, but in the last five seasons have made it to the quarterfinals only once.
With a new quarterback in Nebraska commit Logan Smothers and a defense that returns numerous standouts, the Trojans believe they can make 2019 special.
“It’s been tougher this year than it ever has my whole life,” Muscle Shoals defensive back Caleb McDougle said. “It’s been tougher. More high-paced. More intense. I feel like we’re doing more speed work. Not just weight training. Focusing on speed, too.”
Sheffield’s Long said he didn’t realize the summer work required when he first started playing football. But as coach David Hufstedler reminds his players, if they aren’t working out in the offseason they are effectively just helping their opponents.
“Now it is part of our routine,” Long said.