With day one of practice in the books, North County football teams can agree on one thing; there is a lot of work to be done before the season kicks off in three weeks.
"The first day is normally the hardest and sloppiest," Mount Greylock senior Hank Barrett said. "We came out here and had a pretty good showing. We all worked really hard and that's the biggest thing at this point."
Teams aren't allowed to do contact drills in the first few days of practice, giving coaches a chance to focus on fundamentals and strategy.
"Like most first days, it's a going to be a work in progress," McCann Tech coach Bob LeClair said. "The kids were out there giving their best, and that's what we look for on the first day."
Before teams can get onto the practice field, coaches need to make sure all of their players have passed concussion tests and have had physicals done.
"It's about trying to start off on the right foot, but with the concussion tests and the paper work there are so many things to get done," Greylock head coach Shawn Flaherty said. "The first day is always terrible, in the sense that it's herky-jerky and it's slow."
Conditioning days make it difficult for coaches to really see what they need to accomplish before the season starts.
"It's hard to tell on the first day what we have," Drury coach Bill Bryce said. "You're not allowed to wear pads or use bags, so we just do the conditioning. But I think
The first day of a new season also means new goals.
For Greylock it's about defending back-to-back Division III Super Bowl championships and adding to a 26-game winning streak. The streak is tied with Duxbury High School for the longest active streak in Massachusetts.
"Obviously, with the success that we've had the writing is on the wall, so in a lot of respects, I've decided to embrace that," said Flaherty, who is looking to replace 12 players from last year's title squad. "Whether it's the back-to-back championships, or the streak, we're just going to embrace it all. But, it's not the end of the world if things don't go our way."
For returning players like Barrett, the streak is a driving point.
"You definitely want to remember last year and how good it felt and how we finished," he said. "But at the same time, it's a whole new team. So it's getting the kids who didn't get as much experience ready for it."
Barrett is slated to take over for Kent Hanson at quarterback. Hanson graduated in the spring, after guiding the team to two titles.
Both Flaherty and his quarterback don't think the back-to-back championships -- or the winning streak -- will be a distraction, saying they know that its something they can't avoid.
Greylock isn't the only team hoping to build off of last season's success. After winning the Division II Super Bowl in 2010, Hoosac Valley will look to rebound after being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season. McCann had its most successful season in 2011, winning its league and playing in its first ever Super Bowl.
"We're hoping to continue the success we've had over the last couple of years, particularly when we went to the Super Bowl last year," LeClair said. "I'm trying to push that along to motivate the kids, and keep that positive energy going. I want to really build on the success."
Every team has holes to fill this season in an effort to get back to the postseason. Greylock is returning eight key members of last year's team, while McCann is trying to fill the spots of the 14 seniors it graduated. Drury is returning just four players from its core of starters.
For Hoosac it's all about the new. Dayne Poirot takes over for John Duval as the head coach, after Duval stepped down. The Hurricanes graduated 14 seniors from last year's team.
"We're all excited to be out here, all the kids are excited to be here," Poirot said. "They're excited about being in the new school and looking around and seeing the new bleachers and the new field. They're excited to get back in here."
Last season, Hoosac couldn't practice at the school because of construction. This year the team will play on a new field. The Hurricanes are moving fast to get acclimated to their new surroundings and new coaching staff, as they begin this Saturday with a controlled scrimmage against Westfield and West Springfield.
The main message sent around the county on Monday? Nobody is guaranteed a starting role.
"Nobody on that field has a position locked up," Bryce said. "I hope guys didn't come in thinking they have a spot. The philosophy I have is to put the best 11 guys on the field, and that's what we'll do."
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