Elkhorn's football players were early risers Monday, arriving for their first practice of the season with the Elkhorn Stadium lights ablaze.
The Antlers were ready to go.
“When I got here,'' senior running back Jake Hasty said, “everybody already was yelling and screaming.''
Their workout started at 6:15 a.m., with quarterbacks going out 15 minutes earlier.
Mark Wortman, who's been Elkhorn's head coach since 1980, said cars were pulling into the parking lot at 5:30.
“You can't beat this weather,” he said. “Not too much humidity, a little wind. We could get too spoiled by this.”
Many schools in the largest Omaha-area districts, however, were waiting until afternoon to open practice. It was the first day of classes in Millard. Other districts, including Omaha, had teacher in-service days scheduled before school starts later in the week.
Monday was the first day for high schools in Nebraska to start their fall sports practices in football, softball, girls golf and boys tennis. Cross country and volleyball begin their workouts next Monday.
The season's first softball games and girls golf contests are Aug. 22. Football and boys tennis have their first contests on Aug. 29, with cross country and volleyball on Sept. 5.
|Are you ready for some high school football? Check out our season preview in Sunday's paper and on NEPrepZone.com, including the Super Six.|
In football, teams are required to have two days of no-contact drills. So Elkhorn's players were in their red helmets, T-shirts, shorts and football shoes, allowed to use only footballs, kicking tees and hand-held blocking dummies.
Wortman has two-a-day practices scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Friday. It's consistent with Nebraska School Activities Association guidelines for football practices, which recommend no workout should exceed three hours in length. When there are two-a-days (a maximum of three a week is suggested), a three-hour rest break is the minimum with a total practice limit of five hours.
Through the years, Wortman said, his fall practice schedules have adapted to the earlier start to school and more stringent practice rules for acclimatization.
“Just because I practiced one way in high school, things change,” the Lexington native said. “We may be just as well off.”
Offseason work, including summer camps, helps offset practice limits, he said. Monday, he said, his staff didn't need to do a lot of teaching on the field and could run more plays.
“A lot of guys put in a lot of work over the summer,'' Hasty said. “It's bringing dividends.”
He said Wortman's practices stay the same every year. Nor does his offense change, so the team already knows most of the plays.
Wortman, soft-spoken to where he's barely heard in a team huddle from 20 yards away, finished the first practice by having players run through the end zone after running plays from the 30.
“You didn't cross the goal line fast enough,” he told one group. “You have to lunge past the goal line.”
John Bacus, his longtime assistant, even sprinted with one group to push it.
Finally, “that's three perfect ones,'' Wortman said, holding up three fingers while bringing the team into a huddle. “Good job.”