After nearly a nine month absence, high school football is officially back in Michiana. “Everybody is waiting to get started,” said Clay High School Head Football Coach Joe Szajko. Two-a-days started on Monday for the Colonials with two ninety minute sessions in ninety degree heat.
Due to the high temperatures, many schools across South Bend held early morning and late afternoon practices. Szajko said when his players are out in high temps they just have to be smart.
“We’re in a situation where every player is valuable. We don’t want anybody to go down, heat stroke, or any other silly injury, if we can avoid it,” said Szajko.
At the Clay High School practice field the message is drink water and lots of it. “We give a lot of water breaks,” said Szajko. “We have water bottles for them. The idea is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Preach it. When you go home, hydrate.”
Just eight miles down the road, the Washington High School practice field was quiet during the day Monday. The Panthers hold their practices at night, which means anticipation for the team grew all day.
“It’s time to get after it. It means in a couple weeks we’ll be playing some games. Excitement,” said Washington High School Head Coach Antwon Jones.
Jones’ team practices outside after the sun goes down for more reasons than the summer heat.
Jones said, “Keeps them out of the heat, gives them experience under the lights, and it keeps them off the streets at night. They’re tired when they go home.”
Sophomore Quarterback Daigien Morgan said his team is just ready to get to work. “The atmosphere is more intense now,” said Morgan. “Trying to learn plays.”
He’s working at taking his mind of the heat and keeping it on the game. Morgan said, “Right now I’m just trying to get hydrated. Trying to be more focused on not caring about the heat.”
Ultimately, Morgan’s just ready to take the field for real. “Friday night, and the lights are on you. Yeah it feels real great.” And he’working as hard as it takes to win it all this season. Morgan said,“Most excited about working hard to make it to state this year.”
Washington High School isn’t the only team with a state championship on its mind.
“I want to take my team to state,” said Clay High School Senior Tony Shead. “That’s our goal, to go undefeated and win sectionals. Take it step by step.”
But until the season is underway, it's anyone's game.
Clay High School’s first game is Friday, August 19th, at Riley High School starting at 7 p.m.
Washington High School’s first game kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday, August 20th, against Bloomington-North.