Stephenville High School head football coach Greg Winder noticed it, and so did his coaching staff.
From the start of the first week of practice early Monday morning, real excitement was already bubbling among the players.
“The first thing I noticed — and my staff — was the energy. The energy level was really high,” Winder said. “I talked to them in the locker room, and they were ready to go.”
Winder said that 120 high school student-athletes showed up for the first day of practice, to be sorted out into varsity, junior varsity Blue and White, and freshman A and B teams.
With a large number of incoming seniors who got playing time as juniors last season, Winder said the varsity-level Jackets were ready to start with some advanced instructions, such as working on pass routes.
The talented group of juniors last season helped give the Jackets enough firepower to put them at No. 3 in the state in Class 4A Division I in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine’s preseason rankings. Stephenville has seven offensive and eight defensive starters returning from the squad that got within two victories of winning the school’s sixth state championship.
“I decided what I needed to do is start where we ended in the spring,” Winder said Monday. “We threw a bunch at them today. You always get to the point that you need to back off.”
For Winder, making progress is the name of the game at this point — and despite the returning talent, several positions are still up in the air.
“You’ve got to improve every day and get out and compete,” Winder said. “We’ve got some holes to fill, but somebody always steps up.”
Winder said that some minor scheme changes will be made, but nothing that would stand out to the average observer in the stands.
“There’s some tweaks,” Winder said, noting that there are usually some great coaching ideas shared in lectures by guest speakers at the annual coaching school. “On both sides of the ball, you try to grab something (from coaching school) and you try to implement that.”
Football practice this week will continue starting at 7 a.m. each day.
The annual Blue/Gold intrasquad scrimmage will be Saturday morning, Aug. 11. The freshman scrimmage should begin at about 8 that morning, followed by the varsity and junior varsity players scrimmage, likely starting between 9 and 9:30.
The first varsity scrimmage is set for 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 17, at home against Glen Rose. Their second and final scrimmage will be Aug. 24 at Granbury (7 p.m.). Then the Jackets will prepare for the regular-season opener, Aug. 31 at Argyle.