Tackles, blocking, helmets and pads are now part of the mix in high schools around the state, with a loosening of some regulations relating to COVID-19, and football programs taking another step toward the 2020 season.

Jim Bob Bryant, North Augusta High School's coach, had his squad in action Saturday morning in a scrimmage at River Bluff, in Lexington County. He gave his troops an upbeat review.

"They've really done a good job handling all the outside pressures of the COVID-19 protocols and everything we've had to do, and our kids really competed at the scrimmage. Obviously, everybody right now is way behind," he said, acknowledging the challenge of only having a few days of regular contact before going up against an opponent.

North Augusta was on track see more action this week, with plans for participation in a Friday jamboree in Camden, versus River Bluff and Camden, but the event was canceled Tuesday due to a Camden student having tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The Yellow Jackets' first game is set for Sept. 25 at home versus Blythewood, from Richland County. "We're excited to get started," Bryant said. "Hope we can all stay safe and COVID-free."

LaFayette Stewart, Fox Creek's coach, made similar comments, noting that his players appreciated the chance to go head-to-head in a Saturday scrimmage at Aiken – a "sloppy performance," in the coach's words.

"It was great to have that opportunity to play somebody other than ourselves, but it was sloppy, but that was expected when your first practice was Tuesday of that week. The first practice was Sept. 8. You had to do two days of helmets and shoulder pads, two days of full pads, and then you were able to scrimmage," he said.

Stewart's bunch is to have its next action Friday at 6 p.m. at Silver Bluff, in another scrimmage.

Fox Creek's squad is "in a good place" in terms of conditioning, Stewart added. "Still not game-ready yet, but hopefully after this Friday, we will be. That will be a true test, because it will be game-like – more so than the first scrimmage was ... so we'll see exactly where we are and see if we're game-ready or not." 

The Predators' first game is to be Sept. 25 at home (Lions Field) versus Brookland-Cayce.