By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
King Williams laced up his spikes, Will Fite strapped on his arm bands and RecSpecs and even quarterback Braxton Noble donned his quarterback jacket — all this for the Stillwater High School football team’s media day.
They didn’t have to get game ready. Some chose to wear sneakers instead of their football cleats. They chose to.
Why? Because they’re that excited about the season.
“They were definitely bouncing around a little bit,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “That may have something to do with the cool weather. It’s not what we expect on a middle of August day, but I think they’re excited and ready to play.”
Adding to that excitement is the fact that the Pioneers took the last week off to rest and get their bodies ready for the next three months of daily practices.
But even that was hard for someone like Williams.
“Me and Spencer (Parsons) met up here a few times and lifted,” Williams said. “We ran five miles every day to get in shape, so we’re good. I knew a week break was probably too long for us to get out of shape and do something wrong, so I figured we might as well come back here and lift.”
Williams and Parsons may have had to sneak their way into the weight room during the week off, but that wasn’t the case for one team down the road.
With school starting last week, the Perkins-Tryon Demons were able to work on some conditioning during the athletic hour — finishing all their workouts by 3 p.m. to stay within OSSAA regulation. And while the schedule was a little unusual for Perkins-Tryon coach Lloyd Wertman — who said that in his 30-plus years of coaching school has never started before football season — he welcomed the opportunity to at least get his team in shape.
“It’s been great,” Wertman said. “We’ve got 64 ninth- through 12th-graders, which is a big number for us. ... We’re excited. We were done by 3 p.m. We didn’t have a helmet, we didn’t run a play, we didn’t do anything last week. But at least we were able to get some conditioning in because it was our athletic period.”
That conditioning comes after a grueling eight-week summer pride camp. Now, Wertman is hoping the two-and-a-half-hour light workouts will help his team ease into the daily grind of practice.
“We try to have a progression,” Wertman said. “We start out with our conditioning because we’ve already had an eight-week program. We condition hard (the first few weeks), then we slack off as it gets cooler. We’ll stay with the conditioning pretty hard, but we’ll also have offensive implementation and defensive implementation. We’ll try to build to a crescendo by the first district game.”
There isn’t a right or wrong way to go about the days leading up to the first practice — just ask any coach who has been around for a while.
Whether it’s giving players a week off or working on conditioning, nothing can replace that feeling once the first whistle of the season blows and the pigskins start flying through the air.
“We just hope everybody got charged back up, players have their legs back under them and the coaches have some mental energy,” Barnard said of giving his team the week off. “We’ve got to get started right now. We’re ready to have a great season and it starts (Tuesday). ... It’s kind of the first quarter of a football game. You have to get out and go right now. We don’t have time to ease into it. We have to be ready to play.”
And without a doubt both Wertman and Barnard will have his teams laced up and ready to play when that first Friday in September rolls around.
How each of them gets there will be a different story in itself.
“It’s football and it’s Oklahoma,” Wertman said. “What else needs to be said?”