Article by Tom Green…
The third season of the highly successful Highland Academies Community League officially began last Saturday when members from all six teams participated in the first contact practice of the season. 51 active players (as well as 2 inactive players) participated in the session at the Bught Park in Inverness despite sub-zero temperatures and icy conditions underfoot. Remarkably this also is currently the highest turnout to any recorded HACL practice surpassing the previous record which was set on the very first HACL practice held back in 2014 which was attended by just below 50 players. On top of this, 26 coaches and voluntary staff were involved in the organisation and execution of the session led by Highland Wildcats head coach Robbie Paulin.
Because of the icy conditions on the field the practice plan had to be adjusted to reduce the risk of player hitting the ground and sustaining injuries. On the bright side this allowed the coaches to concentrate on installing offensive plays and work on fundamentals of the game such as blocking and catching. The extra time also allowed the Quarterbacks to work on there passing mechanics the supervision of the QB coaches.
A shout out has to go to the Charleston Academy Knights who had a turnout of 16 players after another successful recruitment drive at theturnout for the Millburn Academy Eagles was also fairly impressive as they turned up with 11 players with the Inverness Predators not far behind with 9.
Another positive which can be taken from turnout is the fact that the majority of the players from every team present have never played a game for the Wildcats unlike in previous seasons. This shows promising signs for HACL seasons in the future because it demonstrates that there is a high and, more importantly, a steady demand for the competitive local American football in the Highlands. This should hopefully be a good recipe for another tightly contested season.
Head coach Robbie Paulin commented, “I was really pleased with how many players came along on the day when I thought it would be a complete write-off because of the weather conditions. The new Blitz facility added to the experience and there was a fantastic atmosphere from all of the new players. The more experienced players and coaches made all the rookies feel welcome which is something that is really important to the Community League. IT’s one of the most successful first sessions we’ve had in terms of attendance, atmosphere and having to adapt to difficult conditions.”