High school football teams across the state went back to work on Monday for the first day of practice.
At Walker High School, coach John Holladay and the Vikings hit the field as a team for the first time since the spring.
“The first day back is always exciting,” said Holladay, who is starting his seventh season as the head football coach at Walker. “It was pretty good to be out there. I thought we had a lot of enthusiasm. I think our kids are coming in ready to go.
“Those last two weeks of July are always hard because we are just waiting to get out there.”
Walker will practice in shorts and T-shirts before transitioning to helmets and shoulder pads by the end of the week. Friday’s practice, the first in full gear, will be held at 7 p.m. at Ki-Ro Gambrell Field.
Holladay said the first few practices are devoted to special teams. After that, he will look to fill out his depth chart.
“There are a lot of situations we are looking at to fill some holes — offensive line and wide receiver — and some others where we need to fill some depth — linebacker and defensive line,” Holladay said.
Walker has nearly three weeks to prepare for its jamboree game set for Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl on Aug. 23.
The Vikings are playing in the 2013 Champions Challenge put on by the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
The Vikings, who finished 8-4 last season, take on Benjamin Russell (11-2), which was put out by eventual Class 5A state champion Spanish Fort in the third round of the playoffs last season. The game will kick off at 7 p.m.
On Saturday, Walter Wellborn (9-3) takes on Straughn (9-4) at 5 p.m. and Bob Jones (8-4) plays Enterprise (7-4) at 7:30 p.m. in the other two games.
“It’s an honor to be recognized. We will be playing a great opponent,” added Holladay.
Walker and Benjamin Russell have met once in the regular season with the Wildcats winning a 7-6 decision in Alexander City in 1934.
Holladay has added a pair of new assistant football coaches to the staff this season. Darius Gilbert, who played linebacker on Alabama’s 1999 SEC Championship team, will be a co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach for the Vikings. He was on the staff at Oxford High School, his alma mater, last year.
“Darius has a wealth of knowledge. He’s a great asset to the program,” Holladay said.
Bert Rice comes to Walker from Pike Liberal, an AISA school in Troy. Rice will coach safeties and defensive backs for the Vikings.