Back to the gridiron: High school football teams begin official practices
By Paul Lecker
The high school football season has officially started as players across the state began training camps on Aug. 2 in preparation for this weekend’s scrimmages and then season openers on Aug. 19.
Auburndale, Spencer/Columbus, and Stratford were among the local teams that braved the warm and humid conditions to begin practice, and the excitement was evident.
Spencer/Columbus Catholic was on the Spencer High School practice field in midmorning as it began its quest to defend its Cloverbelt Conference championship.
The Rockets, which went all the way to the WIAA Division 5 state championship game before losing to Amherst, finished with a 13-1 record, and returning players have been anxious to get things started.
“It’s awesome,” Spencer/Columbus senior lineman Max Johnson said about getting back on the field. “It’s been a long break without football. I think a lot of people are looking to get a couple of hits in. We’re really trying to look at being disciplined, especially earlier in the season, and we’re looking to have a good year.”
Rockets coach Jason Gorst said it was a great offseason for the team and that it has come into camp ready to go.
“Eagerness is one word that comes to mind,” Gorst said. “The guys are really excited to get out here. They are doing a great job of listening and learning, and I’ve been pretty impressed with how much they have retained.”
Stratford hit the field in shorts Tuesday morning, running through drills and getting ready for its scrimmage Aug. 12 at D.C. Everest.
The Tigers have big goals this season after reaching Level 3 of the Division 5 playoffs before losing to Spencer/Columbus.
“I thought we really had an excellent summer,” Stratford coach Jason Tubbs said. “We had a speed training guy come in and do a camp for us. From there we jumped into our summer school camp. The kids really came together and have worked hard all the way through to our own camp.
“We have high expectations, like we do every year, and our goal this year is to lean on our senior class and to have fun and see what happens.”
Stratford will rely on a strong ground game, led by four returning starters on the offensive line and running backs Cole Hoffman and Kam Bornbach.
“We’re very excited,” said Bornbach, a first-team all-Marawood Conference pick at both running back and linebacker last season. “New year, new goals, new team, fresh start, and we’re putting the pieces together for another good season.”
Auburndale failed to reach the postseason in 2015 but has 13 returning starters and a new confidence and improved team chemistry that has second-year coach Eric Custer excited for the new campaign.
“The big thing we focused on this summer was getting in the weight room,” Custer said during a break in an evening practice Tuesday. “We’ve got about twice as many kids in there as last year. They put in work, a lot of kids went to camps, our 7-on-7 was tremendous in Marshfield, and all of that combined will help us turn the corner.”
Senior running back/linebacker Collin Hawkins said the Apaches also have a more positive outlook as this year’s camp opened.
“There’s a lot more excitement than there was last year,” Hawkins said. “I think (our) guys feel like we can do a lot better.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.