Some schools couldn’t wait to get started on the first day of high school football practice Monday.
Kennedale, in fact, began with a midnight workout, just as it has every year under coach Richard Barrett.
“I heard someone else was doing it and thought it was pretty cool,” said Barrett, entering his 14th season at Kennedale. “It caught on, the kids here like it and they get excited being under the lights and the weather is cool so it’s a great thing.”
Monday was the first day of UIL football practice for teams that did not have spring drills. Class 6A and 5A teams that held spring drills begin their August workouts next Monday. The regular season begins Aug. 28.
Here’s a look around the area as football teams hit the field Monday:
Proud to be a Bulldog
Fort Worth Trimble Tech coach Dwayne Henry welcomed 26 players for Monday’s first day of training camp.
It was the largest early turnout for the Bulldogs in the three years Henry has been the head coach.
“I’m really pleased because I think we had just six players two years ago,” Henry said. “We’re in such a dynamic situation here with the application process that very few of these kids live around this area. So if they rely on mom and dad to get them here and school’s not in session, sometimes that can be difficult.”
Henry spent the an hour in motivational talk before the Bulldogs went into action. Tech players went through six conditioning drill stations before the breaking into specific football drills.
“A lot of the guys have been here all summer so it’s time for them to get paid for the time they put in,” Henry said.
Friends, family and fellow students stayed up late and gathered in the stands at Wildcats Stadium to witness Kennedale’s first session of conditioning drills, which began at 12:15 a.m. Monday.
“It’s good for them to come out and see what we do every day,” said senior running back Juwan Washington, a second-team All-State selection in 2013. “They get a chance to watch and support us, so it’s real good for the team.”
Coach Richard Barrett has gone through the midnight routine all 20 years he has coached high school football.
“The kids appreciate it. You don’t usually see people sitting in the stands during regular practices,” Barrett added.
All three teams, freshman, junior varsity and varsity, participated in helmet-only drills, which included position drills, offensive-only snaps and sprints.
“We know we’re going to have holes to fill. Let’s start right now, let’s see where we stand and what we got so we got ourselves a good start,” Barrett said.
Slow, steady at Dunbar
Around 35 players reported to Fort Worth Dunbar’s first practice at 7 a.m. Monday.
As they lined up in rows of seven to start stretches, coach Todd Lawson delivered an order to his team: Play with reckless abandon.
And so began the Wildcats’ 2014 campaign, one that follows a 10-0 regular season in 2013 but an abbreviated postseason after getting bounced by Wichita Falls in the first round of the Class 4A Division II playoffs.
On Monday, Dunbar went straight into the high-frenzy pace that led to its District 6-4A title last year. Wearing blue helmets, gray shirts and blue shorts, players stretched, then went through stations of agility drills during the first hour of practice, as temperatures climbed to around 80 degrees. After a 10-minute break, players were timed in the 110-yard dash.
The plan Monday was to go for around 2 1/2 hours. Dunbar will practice in pads starting next week, Lawson said.
“We’re just going through some things with some guys getting up early, then you go back to their diets, making sure they get enough fluids in them,” Lawson said. “So I’m thinking probably about Wednesday we’ll be a lot better.”
Ready to run
Fort Worth Trimble Tech center Zach Ortiz was all smiles Monday morning.
After a summer of off-season workouts and nutrition changes, Ortiz led the Bulldogs onto the Tech practice field for the first day of training camp.
“This is nothing for me because I’ve been coming up here every day,” Ortiz said. “We’ve all worked harder than we ever had, but just looking around you can see we’re better than we have been in the past.”
Ortiz said it usually takes several days to get back into form, but players took workout advice from Tech coaches before the summer break.
“In the past, it was harder for us to finish a workout, but this year we were finishing workouts quickly and we had extra time.”
Ortiz will anchor an offensive line that helped the Bulldogs generate 2,046 yards last season.
Sprinting to succeed
Fort Worth Arlington Heights started practice Monday morning, but a large chunk of this Yellow Jackets’ session was a continuation of their summer workouts, especially the 16 100-yard sprints each player was required to run.
It showed who did and didn’t keep in shape in the off season.
“We’ve been running them all summer, so we’re already in shape,” junior linebacker Corban James said. “It’s lot easier for us, than the people that weren’t here all summer.”
Arlington Heights had close to 100 players report to practice, coach Phil Young said.
Heights lost in the first round of the playoffs last year, finishing fourth in District 7-4A. But after a UIL realignment, the Yellow Jackets should be a favorite to win District 7-5A, along with Fort Worth South Hills and Fort Worth Southwest.
“Our goal is to definitely win district,” fullback Dunson Woodard said. “And then after district, our coaches keep talking about playing to December. In the past few years, second round is the farthest we’ve ever gone, and we’re trying to change that.”
Yes, it’s just the first day, but Fort Worth South Hills coach J.J. Resendez had little patience for bad ball exchanges between quarterback and running back.
“Both of you give me 10!” Resendez said to the pair. “We do not fumble on the mesh drill.”
Puffing and puffing
Fort Worth South Hills quarterback Tracin Wallace showed great arm strength Monday, but footwork showed some rust.
“He’s been dropping back all summer. Three-step drops, quick-step drops, screen drops,” Resendez said. “The receivers have been running all summer playing 7 on 7, and he’s been thowing it so there’s not much conditioning. His arm looks great. I’m real pleased with his strength. We’ll get his body in shape and work on his level of conditioning.”
As Fort Worth Paschal opened practice, a coach reminded a player to pull his practice shirt down over his torso because they were “not at the beach.”
Had Paschal’s first practice of the season been at the beach, it might have been to cool to jump in the water.
With shadows from Monday’s sunset stretching across the practice field for Paschal’s 6 p.m. practice, the temperature read 90 degrees, but with a constant 10 mile per hour breeze from the northeast, it felt more like the mid-70s.
“I can’t remember in my 18 years of coaching that it’s ever been this nice,” coach Matt Cook said. “It’s better than an indoor facility.”
The weather wasn’t the only thing Cook and his team found comfortable entering the season, as they have settled into the new offense they implemented before last season.
The biggest difference this year will be trying to track down last year’s quarterback, junior Dylan Thomas, who will be utilized in several positions this year.
“I can open things up for them while people are wondering where I am at,” Thomas said. “As long as it helps my team, I’m fine with it.”
Lake Worth opens
Lake Worth began workouts on the school’s practice field, adjacent to Kittrell Stadium.
Despite two straight postseason appearances, Lake Worth finished 6-5 in 2013 and 5-6 in 2012, and lost in the first round both times.
“We just want to make the playoffs and go deep, win a game or two,” coach Tal Sanders said. “I want to win every game, but our goal is to make the playoffs, whether that’s at 7-3 or 6-5, we just want to have a chance at a championship.”
Like most schools, Lake Worth started its season with helmets only and held position drills for all three teams and will do the same for the next three days before going with pads on Friday.
“It was pretty much a review day to see where players were at and we looked pretty good today,” Sanders said.
Sanders helped with the quarterbacks majority of the time as nearly 75 players came out.
“We’re working on the little things, the detailed things in trying to get better,” Sanders said.