Illinois High School Football News

‘You bet it’s exciting’: La Salle County football teams open practice Monday

Coaches say first official practice still special despite all the summer activities

Mendota quarterback Justin Randolph throws a pass during the 7-on-7 meet on Saturday, July 16, 2022 at Princeton High School.

On Monday, football teams around the state of Illinois will take to the field for the first official day of practice for the 2022 season.

But with teams allowed contact days in the summer for camps and 7 on 7s along with conditioning and weight training that run through July, is the first day of official practice still exciting?

“It’s always special,” St. Bede coach Jim Eustice said. “We had a great summer and have not been together for 10 days and now that it is ‘real,’ it’s exciting. The anticipation of the season and knowing it’s officially here makes the first practice a whole lot of fun.”

La Salle-Peru coach Jose Medina said the summer is about preparation with weight training, conditioning, working on schemes and team building, but with the first day of official practice, thoughts turn toward how the season may play out.

“I am always excited about the first day of practice,” Medina said. “It’s the start of the new season. It’s the unknown of how this team will fare against our opponents on our schedule. It’s the excitement of not knowing which players will step up to do great things to help the team win.”

For Mendota coach Keegan Hill, all the time put in during the summer makes the official start of the season more meaningful.

“It’s the official start of the football season,” Hill said. “You have positive routine, everyone is there, the school you is starting. You bet it’s exciting. The time invested in the summer raises expectations because the work means something. The fall is amplified by the summer.”

Nick Meyer, who opens his first season as Fieldcrest’s head coach on Monday, agreed that the summer work makes the first official day of practice better.

“The first day of practice is always special even with all the summer activities,” Meyer said. “If anything, it’s more exciting because of the summer work. Guys now hit the ground running with installs and understand practice expectations. All of the players are there and finishing their summer jobs and other sports. School hasn’t started yet, so all focus is on football and getting better with your team.”

Bureau Valley coach Mat Pistole purposely limits the Storm’s summer activities because he feels it’s important for his players to be able to work, participate in other sports and take vacations.

An added benefit to the Storm’s lighter summer — which included one 7 on 7, one practice and eight days of camp — is keeping the “specialness” of the first official day of practice.

“I think what makes the first day so special is it is a chance for this team to write their own book,” Pistole said. “Each year your group has an identity and the first day is when you lay that foundation.

“The first day is something that our freshmen will never forget and it is typically a day that things start to soak in for our seniors that it is their last go around. There is always butterflies, high hopes and excitement.”

Hall coach Randy Tieman, who is returning for his second stint leading his alma mater, said he feels all the summer activities has taken a little away from the first official day.

“I don’t think it is as special as it used to be,” Tieman said. “I believe the first Saturday when you go full pads is still exciting when you finally get to hit.”

The first official practices mean the season is less than three weeks away with Princeton kicking off on Thursday, Aug. 25 and the rest of the teams in the area opening Friday, Aug. 26.

“Week 1 is always in August, so now it starts feeling more real,” Meyer said. “Everyone is more locked in because they know in a few weeks it’ll be game day.”