On Monday morning in Berne, South Adams tight end and defensive end Nick Miller said that the first official practice of the high school football season didn't feel particularly special.
“It just feels like we're out there making sure we're doing everything right,” the junior said after his morning practice session.
Maybe it feels like just another day because Miller and his teammates have been working away on campus all summer.
“I don't know if he missed one weight session, did you, all summer?” South Adams coach Grant Moser asked Miller.
“I was 20 minutes late to one,” Miller replied, admitting to a rare instance of sleeping through his alarm.
Across the area, players and coaches said the first day of practice doesn't really mark the start of hard work and preparation for the season but rather hints that real games are just around the corner. Intersquad scrimmages will be held in less than two weeks, on Aug. 16, and the regular season starts Aug. 23.
“I know we're all super excited, when we first got out here we were all head-butting each other and were ready to go and play hard-nose football like we always do at Dwenger,” said Hayden Ellinger, a Bishop Dwenger linebacker and fullback. “I think we know how close it is now. In the summer, it's hot, you were just at the pool before. Next week we have the scrimmage, and it's just a little bit different.”
The reigning Class 4A state champions conducted their first practice as construction workers worked on the surrounding stadium, which should be finished in time to be used this season.
“It kind of feels normal, because I know we want to do it again,” Ellinger said of returning to training camp after winning a state title. “I think our mentality is to always win state, so I don't think practice is any different now.”
Saints coach Jason Garrett said that the biggest difference now that training camp is officially underway is that he finally has all of his players back on the field at the same time.
“In the summer, we allow guys to take family time and play other sports (and) if they need to, get jobs,” Garrett said. “So today, it becomes real because we've got everybody with us and we've got an idea of what we've got and who we got.”
Over at Woodlan, the Warriors will have to wait until their practices are fully back to normal. Head coach Sherwood Haydock suffered a heart attack July 30, and though he is in regular communication with his coaching staff and team captains and has even returned to campus for some training sessions, he missed practice Monday night.
The team says Haydock intends to return to the sidelines full time in the near future, but until then senior leadership will be more important than ever.
“The day after, me and Ben (Reidy) went up to see (Haydock), and he was happier than I've ever seen him,” senior Trevor Wallace said. “Since I can remember, from JV to now, we've tried to be good leaders, so we're used to that leadership role. And Coach Haydock has a lot of respect and trust in us to keep this team on the right path.”
Quarterback Ben Reidy said he came into the season with the goal of keeping practices more intense and focused this season, and his role has become even more crucial now that his coach is relying on him to help the assistant coaches pass on instructions and guidance to the full team.
“We want practices to go a lot smoother, especially without coach being here,” Reidy said. “There's a tendency that it could slack off a little bit, but as senior captains we're going to come together and put an end to that stuff. You've got to keep the freshmen and sophomores in line and make sure we have a good practice even though coach isn't here.”