School turns to ‘Midnight Madness’ to change football fortunes

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Everyone knows about how Midnight Madness has become a huge part of the annual college basketball calendar. But Midnight Madness for high school football? If one Virginia school has its way, it could become a late-summer tradition like few -- if any -- other.

According to the Washington Post, Freedom (Va.) Woodbridge High ushered in what is one of the only midnight high school football practices on record at 12:30 on Monday in the first week of August. The Post reported that other area schools had tried the concept in the past, though few had engineered an event with the full midseason-form trappings of Freedom-Woodbridge's inaugural madness.

Just consider the following hullabaloo, all of which was taking place shortly after midnight on a Monday morning:

• The school pep band was in the stands, blasting away throughout the opening practice drills.

• The Eagles' school dancers also showed up to "dance" their support of the effort.

• More than 150 fans showed up, including some members of other area teams who were on hand to scout the Eagles.

• The team marched out onto the field as if running out for an opening kickoff.

All of that was followed by a 3 a.m. catered Mexican meal -- who needs those Taco Bell "fourth meal" ads, anyway? -- and a sleepover in the school gym … which lasted less than three hours. After all, the Eagles had to get in a second practice before the sun was fully risen, mostly to try and keep their mental edge over the area's other programs, but also to help beat the stifling D.C.-area August heat.

"The story with midnight madness is when I took the job, I got kids looking at me like, what is this guy going to do different from what's already been done?" second-year Freedom-Woodbridge coach Gary Wortham Sr. told the Post.

Needless to say, Midnight Madness for high school football is different. Whether it can help change the Eagles' fortunes or not remains to be seen, but it has certainly helped change the players' expectations of success.

"We just want to let everyone know by us being out here at midnight we're really serious about winning this season," senior running back-defensive Donte Latimore said with an earnestness heard often in the Eagles' camp.

Gently reminded about how Freedom, which opens Aug. 26 at home against Mountain View, had gone 1-9 last year after starting the season with a midnight practice, Latimore was unfazed.

"We're not going to stop until we win, sir," he said.

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