Area high school football teams had their first official day of practice Monday with players in helmets and pads for the first time this season.
At the area's two largest schools, Dobyns-Bennett and Science Hill, there was plenty of enthusiasm with players and coaches.
"It's always exciting to get the kids out, get done with the 7-on-7s and finally start real football," Dobyns-Bennett coach Joey Christian said.
It's obviously extremely early in the process, but Christian and Science Hill head coach Stacy Carter each had quick observations about their teams.
Christian is in his first season as Indians head coach after serving as an assistant to D-B coach Graham Clark. The Indians are coming off a year when they won the Region 1-6A championship and finished 8-4 overall.
"Our kids are working hard," Christian said. "They're really flying around, bouncing around and taking coaching well as a whole. They are responding well to everything we've asked them to do. They did that in the spring and they've continued to do so. As long as they do that, we will be OK."
Science Hill started strong, including a 35-14 win over D-B last year. The Hilltoppers went 7-4, seeing its season come to an end with a controversial 41-34 loss at Bradley Central. But it's a new season with new challenges ahead for the Hilltoppers as Carter pointed out.
"Every year is exciting with a new team and new personnel," Carter said. "Every team has a different personality, and it's a different bunch of kids. It's exciting to work with them and to see what they can become. But they've come out here ready to go."
DEFENSE VS. OFFENSE
As in the case most years, the teams' defenses are ahead of the offenses early on. It is the case at D-B, despite the fact the Indians return both quarterback Lendon Redwine and top running back Ian Hicks. But they are replacing key players on the line and other positions.
"We've got a lot of new guys on that side of the ball," Christian said. "So yeah, the defense is a little bit ahead, but there has been some carry over offensively with the quarterback, running back and two linemen who started some. So we have some experience there in the middle."
Over at Science Hill, the 'Toppers have to replace dynamic, record-setting quarterback Jaylan Adams, who is now attending The Citadel. A.J. Stewart is the new starter and will be wearing the No. 11 jersey to honor former Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier. For Stewart and others, these first practices are important for reinforcing techniques and learning the offense.
"These first days are about going back over the basics and installing your stuff," Carter said. "We installed a lot in the spring. You have to review what you did in the spring and add on from there. Our defense is ahead of the offense right now. We have a lot of experience back there and the defense is playing well."