The Madisonville North Hopkins High School football team began its long road toward building another successful campaign Wednesday as the team headed back to the field at the crack of dawn.
The KHSAA summer dead period ended Tuesday night, and the Maroons were back on the field at the earliest possible moment as the sun was still rising in the East.
KHSAA implemented the dead period to give kids a break from practicing throughout the summer, and while most coaches don't like the rule, the Maroons have learned to embrace it.
"Honestly it's one of the greatest things KHSAA does," said North head coach Jay Burgett. "In the beginning of my head coaching career, I was not the biggest proponent of it, but now I love it. It allows kids to get away, recharge their batteries, spend some time with family and just relax for a little."
Now it's back to work. Starting at 9 a.m. for the rest of summer, the Maroons will be under the sun bright and early getting ready for the new year.
"We are getting up to beat the heat," said Burgett. "It's going to be hot this week. It's going to be hot all summer, but the thing is if we get up early enough, we can beat it and the guys have the rest of the day and coaches can get back to their families."
The roster of 60 strong, alongside a coaching staff of 13, woke up early and started the process for a new gridiron season set to begin in a few short weeks. Seven
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on seven practice dominated the day.
"It's just great to be back on the field," said senior linebacker Krey Cunningham. " I'm just excited to get the season going; ready to put in all the work."
Cunningham's mentality was shared across the Maroon's locker room on both sides of the ball.
"Great to be back. Keep practicing and putting in the work for what we want to do and succeed later," said senior quarterback Hayden Reynolds. "And it's just great to see everyone again."
"I feel good. Been here for four years, and we have a whole bunch of seniors on both sides of the ball that are looking good," said starting cornerback Marquise Parker. "We are ready to get things going."
Burgett has picked up on the high energy of his team.
"The feeling of getting back to the field can't be matched," he said. "The day we touch that field it just changes the atmosphere of football inside this program. We know that it's on."
The Maroon's finished 10-3 last year, and they're determined to keep playing at that level this time around.
"The team is excited to face the high expectations this year," said Burgett. "But the guys know they have to put in the work on the practice field just as much as when it's game time."
North's squad is filled with experience from last year's postseason run and know the work that has be put in to succeed.
"The energy is hot within the team. We are just ready to get things going," said Cunningham. "The culture has changed since I was younger and weren't having as good of seasons."
Parker echoed those statements.
"I'm feeling we are going to have a great season," he said. "All the guys are buying in to the program, and we are putting in the work to win."
Players and coaches alike realize this is the time to set up their scheme and prepare for the upcoming season. Getting a chance to implement new stuff, iron out some wrinkles and ask as many questions possible.
"It's weird, I remember when I was one of the young guys asking all the questions, and now I'm the one answering all of them," said Parker. "But it's a good thing. We pass that knowledge down and keep getting better evrywhere."
Despite having their summer break from school cut early to practice, these Maroons seem more than happy to do it.
"These teammates are like my brothers, and we are just out here having fun." said Cunningham.
The Maroons have their first official scrimmage on August 9 hosting Caldwell County at 7 p.m. game and will use all the time in between now and then to keep improving.
"Everybody needs to come and watch because it's going to be a special season." said Reynolds. "We are all just hyped to be playing football again."