Eau Claire (WQOW) — High school football players and coaches have been looking forward to this day all summer: the start of practices all around the area. The anticipation was so high, one Eau Claire team couldn’t even wait until daylight to get things going.
Regis held its first practice just after midnight, under the lights on the Ramblers’ new turf field. With that facility under construction last year at this time, the team couldn’t hold practices at the high school, so the players wanted to do something memorable for the first official workout of the 2018 season.
"This was something that the kids asked me, the seniors asked me in the spring if we could do," says Regis head coach Bryant Brenner. "Great bunch of kids, so I couldn’t say no to them. I thought unveiling our new facility would be a neat thing to start off the season, plus, most of us football nuts can’t sleep the night before the first day of practice anyway, so why not be out here practicing."
The Ramblers have made the playoffs every year under Brenner, who’s entering his eleventh season at Regis. The Ramblers return starting quarterback Isaac Michels, along with several running backs and a number of lineman who are part of a large senior class. But Brenner says, the early practices will be about getting back to basics.
"We’re just trying to get organized and get started, I think starting anything the first key step is just get out here and get started and sort of get some of the kinks out," Brenner says, "we’ve got a long ways to go, we do have some guys back but just trying to get a few guys into new positions and get reacquainted with what we’re doing. Each year is a new year, it’s kind of like putting pieces of a puzzle together,you never know how it’s going to fit, but we’re going to have some leadership out of our upperclassmen, juniors and seniors, definitely."
Regis kicks off its season Saturday, August 18, when the Ramblers host Cadott.
At Eau Claire Memorial, the Old Abes opt for a more traditional late-morning practice. It’s year two under head coach Mike Sinz. Memorial made the playoffs last season, but the Abes graduated a majority of their starters on both sides of the ball, so Sinz and his staff are looking for new players to step up.
"We lost a lot of size,"says Sinz, "at the same time, we had a lot of good big kids, but we have a lot of speed back, which is huge, and that’s one thing, we always talk about, speed kills, and we have to use that to our advantage. And we have a lot of kids, they’re not huge, but they’re about 170 (pounds each) and they can run, and that’s, we’ve got to have that in our favor."
Sinz says the biggest difference from last year is that he knows his players a lot better, adding that those players did a good job working hard through the offseason. Players think that while they may lack in experience and size, they can be effective in other ways.
"We’ve got a couple guys with some size that are a little bit younger, but a lot of speed this year," says Old Abes senior running back / free safety Andrew Roberts, "we’re not as quite as big as last year, but a lot of speed and a lot of flying around. We did a lot of work in the offseason, and now it’s kind of time to bring it all together."
"We have our speed and also going into this season we have a lot of young kids," says Memorial senior wide receiver / tight end / defensive end Nathan Hau, "so we have a lot of changes going on in the program, so no one really knows what to expect from us and we’re going to use that to our best and try to hit teams in the mouth."
Memorial kicks off its season on Friday, August 17, when the Old Abes host La Crosse Logan.