WILLIAMSTOWN -- It's been nearly nine months since Mount Greylock football coach Shawn Flaherty's voice echoed in the hills behind the school. The familiar booming voice and subsequent repeats returned late Monday morning as he called out instructions and blew his whistle.
It was the first day of football practice across the state. For most teams, that means another shot at glory. For Mount Greylock, that means another season to assert itself as the best.
"You definitely spend the offseason planning and doing personnel things and thinking about what will work well for this coming season," Flaherty said. "Now to actually be out here and to finally put it together, it's definitely exciting to be out here."
The three-time defending Western Massachusetts champion Mounties returned to the field for the first of three no-pads-allowed practices.
They maintain the atmosphere isn't much different than other Day Ones in recent years, but some can feel a growing pressure.
"I wouldn't say it's overwhelming, but you got to win," said senior Robby Buffis, whose been apart of all three title teams. "When you win three in a row, you're expected to keep on winning. Everyone's been working hard for it."
If there's a little less weight on the Mounties' shoulders, it's because they aren't on the verge of the longest winning and unbeaten streaks in Berkshire County football history. The Mounties set that record last season before dropping a regular season bout with Wahconah. For some, it was noticeable.
"That was a toll," senior Daivon Clement said. "I felt nervous before every single game. Now, it's more just trying to make the best out of my senior year, try to win the four-peat, of course."
Much of the nearly-2-hour-long practice was devoted to the basics. Whether it was quarterbacks and centers working on snaps and footwork, lineman working on blocking form or everyone working on tackling technique, the focus was all about fundamentals.
Sophomore quarterback Brodie Altiere understands the importance of the first few practices. He took over as the starting playcaller last year when Hank Barrett broke his collarbone, ending his season.
Now, it's Altiere's turn to lead the team from the outset.
"You get to get acclimated with the players again because you haven't really thrown with them in [about] eight months," he said. "But it's huge, and it's also good for the first-year players to get used to them too."
Everyone had something a little bit different on his mind at the end of Day One. Buffis was thinking about the good friends he'd made and looked up to for the past few years and how he was now the one being looked up to. Clement was thinking similarly, but focused on how "weird" it is to not have anyone to look up to.
Altiere was busy thinking about the future and how the team will fare.
"Just seeing what we can do," he said. "Last year was definitely a good year and just interested to see what we can do with new guys in the starting lineup and stuff like that."
For many players, the first practice is something they've looked forward to -- maybe not the "Mountie Mile" sprints at the end, but certainly the possibility of playing at Gillette Stadium for a true state championship. This is the first of a two-year trial state playoff system.
"We won [Western Mass.] the past few times, so capping it off with that fourth Super Bowl would definitely be the icing on the cake, especially because the fourth Super Bowl is at Gillette this year," senior Nick DiSanti said. "So if we got to that and got to win that, that definitely would be the experience of my lifetime."