With just over two weeks until the season-opening kickoff, the Reed Raiders football squad took to the field for the first day of official fall practice and began its defense of its Northern 4A crown.
“It feels great being out here,” Reed senior Ty Shepard said. “I think it’s just about being a family. You come out here with the kids you’ve been playing with since just about eighth grade and you’re out here being a family and building a foundation. We all love each other so we’re just coming out here and having fun. We all come out here and do what we have to do. It’s a team effort out here. We’re trying to get that state championship this year and we’re just coming out here and working hard.”
Although there was a certain enthusiasm to the first day of practice, Reed coach Ernie Howren said it was just another day at the office for the Raiders.
“I think there’s definitely an energy out there. There’s an energy out there, but I’ll tell you what, it’s business as usual, too,” Howren said. “There wasn’t anything really different. These guys know the expectations and they kind of come in here with a business-like attitude.
“The only difference is you’re two-and-a-half weeks away from a competitive game. Up to this point, everything we’ve been doing counts and it means something. It’s all extremely important, but now this is why you practice all summer, all spring. There’s been so much effort put in from December to this point that the anticipation of that first game is just so high. Everything is on the line at that point. Now it’s about making sure we understand certain concepts that are going to make us a better football team scheme wise and the effort level that has to be there in order to be successful. All that stuff has to come together in a very short amount of time.”
While a state crown is always the focus of the Raiders, Howren makes sure his team winds down with team dinners and movies in between practices.
“Honestly we’re just trying to create a team atmosphere. We just want them to be together,” Howren said. “We come in and we eat dinner together and get them to relax a little bit. We watch a movie. None of the movies are motivational. Most of them are just comedies. We want them to come in here and relax. They know what they have to do when they step out on the field, but their life doesn’t need to be about football 24-7. When they’re on the field, we expect maximum effort. Off the field, hang out and be a bunch of kids.”
Back on the field, the attitude of Raider gridders reflected that workman-like mentality that Howren had emphasized.
“Right now we’re just trying to catch up to that game speed because during the summer we don’t usually meet up as a team,” Reed senior Drew Bryant said. “It’s mostly strength conditioning and weights and looking at plays. You don’t usually get time to get out and run through the plays so we’re just trying to put all of that together now. We just want to build it up so that when we come out on our first game we’re flying around.
“Once we get the pads, on we’ll see who wants to play. We have a lot of new guys this year and there’s a lot of athletes on this team, but you still have to see who wants to play based on who wants to hit because we will be the most physical team again this year.”
Howren was more than happy to see that winning attitude instilled in his team this early on in the season.
“We believe in our abilities,” Howren said. “It’s awesome. To hear that from one of the players, that’s just huge. It’s a quiet confidence. We know what we have and we know who we are.”