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story.lead_photo.caption Bud Sullins/Special to Siloam Sunday First-year Siloam Springs football coach Brandon Craig and the Panthers begin fall practice on Monday at Panther Stadium.

The Siloam Springs football team has had a strong summer, according to first-year coach Brandon Craig. Now the real work begins for the Panthers.

Siloam Springs is set to begin fall football practice on Monday as high school football teams across the state are officially allowed to begin preparations for the 2018 season.

Siloam Springs football

2018 schedule

Date^Opponent^Time

Aug. 17^Pea Ridge%^6 p.m.

Aug. 31^at Pryor, Okla.^7 p.m.

Sept. 7^Harrison^7 p.m.

Sept. 14^at Van Buren^7 p.m.

Sept. 21^Sheridan*^7 p.m.

Sept. 28^at Benton*^7 p.m.

Oct. 5^Greenwood*^7 p.m.

Oct. 12^at Lake Hamilton*^7 p.m.

Oct. 19^El Dorado*^7 p.m.

Oct. 26^at LR Hall*^7 p.m.

Nov. 2^Russellville*^7 p.m.

* 6A-West Conference game

% Arkansas Activities Association benefit game

The Panthers have a little more than a month to prepare for their season opener at Pryor, Okla., on Aug. 31.

"I think the focus now is on the season," Craig said. "You know that you have a deadline coming up on Aug. 31 with the meeting with Pryor, and that gives you that extra focus. Everything becomes more specific to what we're doing to get ready for them and get ready for the season as a whole."

Siloam Springs' fall practice schedule is already scripted out for the next several weeks. The Panthers -- like all teams in the state -- will practice for two days in helmets only from 7 to 9:30 a.m. on Monday and Tuesday before progressing to shells (shoulder pads) on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the same times.

"Everything is scripted. We already have a plan in place," Craig said. "We're going to go out and practice first in the morning when there's less heat. Then we'll come in and watch film, do lifting and all the things we have to do (inside). But we'll be on the field first for sure."

Practices will shift to the afternoons on Aug. 6 and the team will rotate between shells and full pads that week.

The team will have a Blitz Night in lieu of practice on Aug. 10, and Aug. 11 is the team's media day in the morning and their Maroon-Gray scrimmage later that night.

Practice continues the week of Aug. 13-17 with the Panthers hosting Pea Ridge in a benefit game at Panther Stadium at 6 p.m. on Aug. 17, two weeks prior to the season opener with Pryor.

The team will continue practice Aug. 20-24, including several practices at Glenn W. Black Stadium. The Panthers are practicing at Glenn W. Black because of the natural grass surface at Pryor.

The week of Aug. 27-31 will be the team's first game-week practice.

Craig said the atmosphere around the team is going to get pumped up a few notches in the next few weeks with the season approaching.

"It definitely amps everything up because you know that first Friday night is coming and you're excited about it," he said. "Kids are excited about it and it gives you a purpose. Even though you're going to 7-on-7 and you're having a spring game, those things don't mean near as much as that first Friday night."

The Panthers have had a busy summer. Along with the team's regular strength and conditioning program in the mornings, the team has attended team camps at Pittsburg State (Kan.) and Bentonville West. They participated in the Border Battle 7-on-7 Tournament in Branson, Mo., right after the Arkansas Activities Association dead period, and have been active in getting community service hours throughout the summer.

"I'm immensely excited about how the summer has gone," Craig said. "The opportunity that was created by me getting in here March 26 really put us ahead of schedule. The fact that I was here in March, we were able to start working with the kids, starting to watch film with the kids, implement our offensive and defensive plan. Those things are valuable and have really put us ahead of the curve as far as that goes."

Now the Panthers -- who went 2-8 in 2017 and are picked to finish sixth in the 6A-West Conference -- have to put all that work into their fall practice, Craig said.

"It's a matter of refining and fine-tuning technique and skills that we've worked," Craig said. "We want to make sure that we're 100 percent on point in terms of schemes and terminology and things we're trying to implement offensively and defensively. Then we want to develop our special teams and make sure our special teams are in great shape and ready to go, because that's a big factor. We want to compete every day and that's the thing, we've got to compete every day to make our program better."

Sports on 07/29/2018

Print Headline: Fall grind begins for Panthers

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