It seems like a certainty that high school football players across the state were excited to begin practice Monday, which was the first day teams could hold practice if they participated in spring football.
For Guyer and head coach John Walsh, there was an excitement Monday morning as the Wildcats took the field for the first time since spring football ended, but it wasn’t quite at the level that many would expect.
“It kind of works against the energy you think you’ll have on the first day, because our retention was so good,” Walsh said. “A lot of times that energy on the first day is from anticipation of hearing new things and doing new things. I went through a script [of offensive plays] the way we’ve always practiced, and the kids knew it. We lacked a little bit of that first-day energy I thought we’d have, but I think our football I.Q. is so good right now it took away from it.”
With junior quarterback Jerrod Heard back with a year of starting experience under his belt and seven other returning starters on offense, Heard said he was happy with the ease of running the offense, especially for the first day back.
“The guys really studied over the [summer] break,” Heard said. “It was just an overall anxious feeling to get back out here. There was nothing better to do, so we just studied the playbook. When we got here it was nothing. It was really easy.”
The first day of practice also marked the first opportunity to officially put last season in the rearview mirror. The Wildcats were ousted from the postseason in the second round — and in blowout fashion — with a convincing loss to Mansfield in which not much went right for the Wildcats.
That loss ended a three-year run of the Wildcats making it at least to the state semifinals, including an appearance in the 2010 Class 5A Division II state championship game.
“We didn’t like the way last year finished,” Heard said. “I think everyone knows this is the year we’re going to go get that ring. It’s good to get it all started.”
Guyer returns to Class 4A this season after two years spent in the state’s largest classification, where it went 21-7 with six playoff victories.
While the offense has a wealth of starting experience back from last season, the defense will be breaking in eight new starters, including middle linebacker Terence Belton.
Belton will look to fill the shoes of the Wildcats’ past two middle linebackers, Blake Terry (Texas-San Antonio) and most recently Dominic Ramacher, who is now a freshman at Oklahoma State.
“It’s a big role to fill after Dom and Blake have both been there,” said the senior, who saw limited playing time last year. “I know how important the position is to our defense and I’m looking forward to being that guy.
“With the other two linebackers [new starters Terrell Singleton and Demontrie Taylor], I think we’ll be good. It’s just fun to get that excitement going throughout the defense.”
Belton said the first day of practice was exciting but he will be more excited come Friday when teams are allowed to practice in pads for the first time.
That means full contact and a better opportunity for coaches to evaluate where they stand at each position.
“Until you get pads on, it’s not football,” Walsh said. “We’re going to get through these four days and wait for Friday to get here.
“We spring-balled two months ago, but it seems like almost yesterday. This just seems like a waste of time. We’re ready to get after it. I understand why we have to do it, but we’re ready for Friday to be here.”
Senior wide receiver Ellis Jefferson, who recently committed to Arizona State, sat out the first day of practice with a minor hamstring issue. Walsh said that if it were a game he would’ve been ready to play but he was held out of practice for precautionary reasons.
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .