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HAMMOCK: All-star football coaches, players braving cold

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

A California native who has spent most of his high school coaching career in Florida, Tim Cokely has done a pretty good job of avoiding cold weather. He couldn’t escape it this week, though.

The Greater Atlanta Christian head football coach and his Gwinnett colleagues are coaching this week in the annual Rivalries of Gwinnett All-Star Football Game, and spend close to two hours each afternoon in the frigid temperatures. A crop of more than 70 Gwinnett high school players are right there with them.

“I’ve gone skiing a good bit and (Monday) was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life,” Cokely said during Tuesday afternoon’s practice at Grayson, when the high was 31 degrees and the low was 14.

The coaches and players did their best to bundle up and keep moving, bouncing around more than standing still. Like them, I couldn’t feel my toes as I watched Tuesday’s practice. I thought that was bad, but every player or coach I spoke with said that Monday, with its brutal wind, was much worse. The Monday temperatures were low, a high of 32 and a low of 18, but the stiff wind made it feel like double digits as the teams practiced at Grayson and Central Gwinnett.

By the time the sun dipped behind the visiting stands Tuesday evening at Grayson, the temperature dropped rapidly. Only Charlie Conn, the father of Grayson head coach Mickey Conn was comfortable — he was smart enough to observe from the heated press box.

Meanwhile many players caught and threw passes without gloves, hiding their hands as much as they could for warmth. The kickers booted rock-hard footballs. As a bonus, rain will be added into the mix the next two days.

The players and coaches are enduring the elements to prepare for Saturday’s all-star game — scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Mountain View — using the time to learn new terminology and plays for the annual showdown. For some, it’s just a fun game before they play in college. For others, it may be the last organized football game they ever play.

The game and the Saturday morning banquet that precedes it are the rewards for these players, some of the top senior players Gwinnett has to offer. It’s the payoff for a week full of hard work in the bone-chilling cold.

The forecast for Saturday’s game isn’t great — a high of 44 and low of 24 according to The Weather Channel — but two Gwinnett all-star teams still will face off for bragging rights.

Hopefully a good crowd of fans will be there to support them. After what they’ve been going through this week, they deserve it.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.