Like the first buds popping on trees across Dawson County, the football equipment being unpacked from boxes in the field house at the high school serve as the early signs of spring. In this case, spring football.
Coaches sorted through recently delivered boxes last week, organizing and setting aside the essentials for the beginning stages of another year of Tiger football.
Work in the weight room may be year round, but the first on-field work began this week with practices at the junior high and high school.
The spring practices began May 8 and continue until spring games begin with the ninth grade inter-squad scrimmage at 5:30 p.m. on May 18 at Tiger Stadium.
The eighth grade team will play at 7 p.m. on May 18 against the Pickens County eighth grade team.
On May 19, the junior varsity and varsity program will also take on the Dragons-the first game under the lights for the 2017 season. Kick-off for the spring game is set for 7:30 p.m. and proceeds will serve as a fundraiser for the two programs.
Maxwell and Pickens Coach Chris Parker go back several years with Parker first working under Maxwell in his time at Sequoyah in the 90s. Together they agreed this kind of game would benefit both teams.
"We are looking to Friday night play a JV/varsity game. They will be playing together. Not really focused so much about score. It's more about a lot of young guys getting playing time, getting their feet wet," Maxwell said. "When you get to play somebody, it adds a little more excitement to it."
Dawson County is coming off a 7-3 season and finishing as runners-up in Region 7-AAA.
Though the Tigers said goodbye to 34 seniors, Maxwell says that is a sign of a healthy program.
His goal is to start kids early in his system-at the park and rec level so they will play together for several years and develop consistency.
This fall, the younger players will not be bussed to the high school for practices. Those teams will use the facilities on their campuses to give kids greater flexibility for practice and family time, according to Maxwell.
"I am really excited this year just the idea of being able to bridge, jumping on with the schools, being able to integrate while everything is new," he said.
Sixth and seventh grade teams will practice at the middle school and the junior high will also have its own weight room which will be under the direction of Offensive Coordinator Andy LeBlanc.
"We are in the process of building a weight room in the junior high. Coach LeBlanc is going to be my strength coach there," Maxwell said. "We are bridging that gap. Not only are we integrating the football programs, we are integrating athleticism to hopefully make them better in all sports."
So far this year, 52 rising eighth graders are on the roster, along with 30 ninth graders and around 85 in grades 10-12.
Maxwell will also continue the tradition of holding a coaching clinic for park and rec coaches to keep putting in place a steady, familiar system to get kids heading the right way early.
"I am definitely a process guy. Everything is very systematic," he said.
"One of the headaches of youth sports is you have to go back and practice at 6 o'clock. They won't have to. All will be on same schedule, 3-5 p.m., and get to go home and eat with their families," he said. "You don't disrupt everybody's days. We are trying to build a system in place where that's going to be advantageous to get more kids to play."
Ultimately, Maxwell wants to develop athletes and help them find success-regardless of whether it is on the football field, the basketball court, the baseball diamond.
"We want to make sure we have a system in place that helps these people in the community reach their potential," Maxwell said.
"The expectation is to keep getting better each week."