It's a new football season for the Rapid City Central Cobblers, Rapid City Stevens Raiders and St. Thomas More Cavaliers. And that new season began in earnest on Thursday with the first official day of practices.
Raiders open with strong first day
Coming off his best season at Stevens, Scott Hagen said their first three-hour practice might have been the best first-day offensive workout he has ever had as the team's head coach.
Hagen said they had a core of about 35-40 players who did a lot of work together over the summer in the weight room, and on Monday nights during open-field time.
"I thought offensively we looked good and that carried over to the defense," he said. "The kids worked hard, and for the first practice, I was very excited about it."
Stevens finished 5-5 last season, its best record in Hagen's tenure, leading to some early-season momentum now. He said the players fed off of that and worked hard during the off-season, and it showed today out on the field.
Hagen said that they always seem to practice well in the mornings with it a bit cooler, so hey like to save the walk-through to the evening session.
"We tell our kids the walk-through is a lot of mental stuff; you don't have to worry about conditioning," he said. "During our three-hour practices, we leave everything out on the field. They did that Thursday morning."
Hagen estimated they had about 103 players out in grades 9-12 in the morning practice. He said there were some players who helped them last year that aren't out yet, so he's hoping those numbers can increase.
"My goal is to always have a platoon where we have a separate offense and a defense, and that paid dividends last year," he said.
The Raiders open Aug. 24 in Sioux Falls against Sioux Falls Roosevelt.
Cavaliers young but will look to challenge again
Going into his 28th year as head football coach at St. Thomas More, Wayne Sullivan said that first day each year is always the same. He has butterflies and he is excited, to say the least.
"You have worked a lot with the kids over the summer, but just getting here you know it is real. It starts the season off," he said. "As a coaching staff, we're excited with what we have coming up. It looks promising."
The Cavaliers had 44 players from eighth grade through 12th grade out on Thursday, which is down a little from past years, Sullivan said. With just three seniors this season, it will build in the future.
"It will go up exponentially with the kids coming in. That happens, you get waves like that," he said. "But the three seniors that we have are all starters, they're all two- or three-year starters. They will contribute and be on the field a ton.
"But that means juniors, sophomores and freshmen are going to play varsity this year."
Over the summer, Sullivan said that coaches are able to put in their offense and do passing leagues, but he said that now it is, "Where do you go, what is in front of you? On the defensive side you have to reach your G's and get there and finish.
"That is the toughest thing. I always believe that the offense is a little bit ahead at the beginning just because of the things you can do in the summer."
The next three or four days will be devoted to fundamentals. The team will practice and stay out at its complex at Terra Sancta.
Sullivan said they are blessed to be out here through Saturday as they get to watch film, they get chalk talk and they get away from their parents.
"This is our 20th year doing this and I have yet to have a kid call in sick the next morning," he said proudly.
The Cavaliers, 8-3 last year, open the season Aug. 25 at home against Spearfish.
Iverson excited for second year at the helm
Although Rapid City Central's opening-day numbers were a little lower than the past, the good news for the Cobblers is the players are a little more in-sync with second-year head coach Erik Iverson's program.
Iverson said the off-season was positive for the program.
"The core group of guys who came back spent most the off-season coming in four days a week," he said. "A couple of days each week we would go over some tweaks in the offense. We might not be as talented as we were last year skill-position wise, but I feel better about where we are at with our offense and the adjustments that we can make."
While the overall numbers are a little down, Iverson said they have a larger freshmen class than in the past, which is positive for the future. It also makes the first day a little slow getting the newcomers up to speed.
"We had a lot of classroom stuff and stretching. (Friday) should be a better day," Iverson said.
Iverson took his team to a couple of summer camps, one in Sioux Falls and another at Chadron State College. While the team is young, it picked up some valuable experience in those situations.
"We don't have a lot of experience, but the people who are back, it is not like they are totally fresh," he said. "We have a bunch of grinders."
Iverson said the next few days will also be a chance for getting the newcomers acclimated to the equipment. They'll be in helmets through Saturday, but when they come back next week, they will be able to be in full pads.
"There is going to be a lot of teaching time," he said. "The veterans are looking forward to it as they can show the younger kids the ropes a little bit. It should be a good team-building thing."
Central, 2-8 last season, opens the 2018 campaign on Aug. 25 at home against Sioux Falls Lincoln.