The Whitworth Pirates’ football practice Monday started with partly-cloudy blue skies and an ominous smoke plume to the north. Halfway through practice, the wind changed and the players were sucking air that tasted like a camp fire.
The Pirates, who finished 9-2 last year and made the Division III playoffs for only the third time in program history, already have plenty to think about trying to run offensive coordinator Alan Stanfield’s fast-paced offense.
“We did pretty good. We missed some passes early, but we finished strong,” he said.
In several drills, Stanfield had all five quarterbacks throwing a different route to a different receiver on every play. Several Pirates had to take plays off for sore muscles and pulls near the end of the second session of the day.
“One of our big focuses is consistency,” coach Rod Sandberg told the team. “It doesn’t matter if it’s smoky. You have to respond to circumstances. You’ve got to continue to practice together. I thought we did OK today.”
Receiver Nick Kiourkas, who is a preseason Division III All-American, said the smoke was just another distraction that the team had to get through as it prepares for the season.
“It’s more mental. It was tough breathing and my eyes were watering, but it’s that way for everybody,” the Shadle Park product said. “You can’t let it affect you.”
The catch of the day went to freshman wideout Kobe McDaniel. He chased down an overthrown pass, got one mitt on the ball and rode it home for a circus-act, single-handed grab.
The Pirates just have a few more days of training camp before game planning starts for Whitworth’s first game on Sept. 3 against Central (Iowa) at the Pine Bowl.
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