There’s a palpable sense of excitement about the annual start of high school football practices. It draws on both the fresh promise of a new season and the release of an off-season full of strength training, speed drills and individual and team camps.
Combine that excitement with a sense of urgency to either earn or cement a position on the team and you have a recipe for a spirited start to the fall season that is as universal as cleated shoes.
“Hey, we’re all undefeated right now!” longtime Central Valley head coach Rick Giampietri said with a laugh. “We had a very good summer between our Border League camp, our lifting program and our speed work on Wednesday morning.”
At University, the sense of excitement is about something a little more formidable.
For the first time in school history, the Titans won a playoff game – in fact, they won two playoff games and reached the Class 3A semifinals, falling to Eastside Catholic at Albi Stadium.
A taste of success bodes well for a hard-working off-season as players are determined to get back and take the program all the way to the title game.
But the passion started simmering long before the playoffs. It started long before the start of fall practices.
Head coach Rob Bartlett set out to light a fire under his team as soon as he was hired in May 2012, and the flames were fanned throughout the year. The fire and excitement spread all season long, igniting the fan base.
Last year’s senior class set the tone. Players back for a second year under Bartlett are still calling the tune.
“They bought into the program and what we’re trying to do,” Bartlett said of last year’s seniors. “I would have to say that we’re already ahead of where we were a year ago. It’s definitely carried over.”
The key, Bartlett said, is the fact that most of the U-Hi coaching staff are all U-Hi grads.
“It’s huge,” said Bartlett, himself an alum as well as the son of a former U-Hi head coach. “I think the kids know that we believe in what we’re doing and what we’re building here and they all want to be part of it.”
At CV, Giampietri welcomed more than 120 to the Bears inaugural workout Wednesday.
“It’s a good start,” the dean of Greater Spokane League coaches said. “We have good numbers. Our junior class is pretty small, but the seniors are looking good. Our offensive line is a veteran group and I think that’s going to be a plus for us.”
The Bears typically come into the start of the new season with most of the playbook already installed.
“We felt really good about where we were at the end of the Border League camp,” he said. “What’s nice is that we already have our returning players running plays the way they’re supposed to run them, so that cuts down on the coaching staff’s frustration.
“Our timing isn’t there just yet, of course, and we still haven’t hit anyone. But we’re off to a good start, and we haven’t gone backwards from where we were at the end of camp.”
The coach said the team already received a scare when senior Adam Chamberlain, the team’s returning starter at quarterback, tweaked his Achilles’ tendon earlier this month.
“We’re limiting him a little bit right now, but I think he’s going to be fine,” Giampietri said.
The start of fall practice seems to bring out interest from the alumni.
CV got a visit from former running back Greg Horn, a standout in the late ’70s.
“He was in town visiting with (assistant coach) Rick Sloan – they played together at CV,” Giampietri said. “I’ve already reached out to some of our former cornerbacks and they’re going to come back and talk to our young guys in the next couple days.
“It’s always good to see guys like that.”
Both Bartlett and Giampietri say they will begin their run of five two-a-day workouts today and will continue them through Thursday.