SANGER _ As if Texas high school football didn’t have enough cultural traditions, a new one is gaining traction. As Class 3A programs began preparations for another season, several North Texas programs celebrated with Midnight Madness as practice began at 12:01 a.m.
A few miles north of Denton, Sanger hopes a midnight start helps spur a more promising season after a disappointing one.
“We had a rough year, an 0-10 record and we want to change that,” Sanger sixth-coach Chuck Galbreath said. “We had a long off-season. We decided we didn’t want to wait any longer than a minute to start a new season.”
In its first Midnight Madness practice, Sanger had several hundred parents and students in the stands as music blared over the stadium loudspeaker with selections from Kenny Chesney’s “Boys of Fall” to Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” as the players went through its pre-game inflatable tunnel.
A pioneer in midnight practices just down Interstate-35 was Krum, which was having its fifth start atmidnight which has blossomed into a fair-like atmosphere with several thousand residents and pre-game bounce houses and activities beginning at 9 p.m.
Class 4A and 5A programs which had spring practices begin with practices next week. Class 4 Prosper also will have its third-consecutive Midnight Madness under Coach Kent Scott.
“It’s something new, it’s something different, it gets the kids and the community excited,” Scott said. “I did it in a little South Plains town (Ralls) which wasn’t doing well. I do think it sets an underlying message that we’re ready to go to work.”
In its first year at Sanger, players were enthusiastic to get another season started. One of the larger enrollment schools in District 9-3A, Sanger has built its off-season workouts with a “Payback Tour” theme. The optimism toward a new season has been building since last November toward the first practice of another season.
“I came up here at 9:30 (p.m.), I was at home and told my mom I just couldn’t wait any longer,” senior defensive end Dalton Hassell said.
The roots for many of the midnight practices are found in a long-standing tradition of starting a basketball season with one. For football, it also allows for a cooler practice time. Temperatures were around 85 degrees in North Texas at midnight in a stretch of 100-degree days.
Sanger’s Booster Club president Brad Watts was familiar with the idea from visiting events of his father-in-law, a basketball coach in Slidell. At Krum, coach Gary Robinson has used the midnight start to build football momentum in a formerly all-basketball town.
“We had to create a culture of excitement adding a football program,” Robinson said. “ The first year we had a ninth-grade class (2009) was our first year. It’s been building every year since.”
Prosper’s student council will add a movie for residents in a pre-practice tailgate party this Sunday. An’84 Sanger graduate, Galbreath kept a basic approach to his first effort at midnight practice to enhance enthusiasm without other trappings. But, of course, if Sanger rebounds with a strong season as hoped, an early morning practice to start each season may become the new normal.
“I’m not really superstitious,” Galbreath said. “But if something is working, I usually try and keep it going.”