MORRIS — After a summer's worth of 7-on-7s, linemen challenges and other various activities, the Morris football team, like the rest of the teams in the state, officially kicked off the 2017 season Monday with the first practice of the year.
As mandated by the IHSA, during the first two days of practice, the players are to wear helmets only. From Wednesday through Friday, they can wear helmets and shoulder pads before the first day of fully-padded practice Saturday.
For a team like Morris, which took full advantage of the 25 summer contact days allowed by the IHSA - meaning that coaches were allowed to have contact with their teams - the first couple days of practice are more about conditioning than teaching.
"We had 25 contact days during the summer," Morris coach Alan Thorson said. "These first couple of days are a lot of review for us. Most of these guys already know 90-95 percent of the offense or defense, whichever they will be playing, so we are just running through some things these first couple of days.
"It's still exciting for us, though. Even though we have been working all summer, now it's official. It's football season. The kids don't have to worry about leaving early to go to another practice or game. We encourage multi-sport athletes, but now it's nice to have those kids concentrating just on football."
The players could feel the excitement as well.
"We were together a lot during the summer," senior quad-captain Brennan Goff said. "But it was different today because it's the official start of the season. Now things start getting serious."
One aspect of this year's team that has Thorson excited is the fact that there are very few players that will play a lot on both sides of the ball.
"We always seem to have at least four of five guys that we have to have play both ways," he said. "This year, we are pretty deep. The depth charts aren't set yet, but as of now we only have one or two that will play both ways full time.
"That will definitely help us late in games and should help us stay healthier throughout the season. Guys will still be rotating in and out on both sides, but not many will be playing full time both ways."
Thorson already has a plan in place for the first week of practice.
"We had the last 10 days off," he said. "That's why the first two days will be mostly about conditioning. We want to be in the best shape we can be when the season starts. When we get the shoulder pads on Wednesday, we will pop the pads a little bit, but no hitting down on the legs and we won't bring anyone to the ground.
"Once Saturday comes and the full pads are on, we will find out who our hitters are. But, we won't do too much hitting. You can't hit too much and have them beat up for the first game, but you want them to be used to the hitting when the games start."
The strength of the team this year appears to be on the offensive and defensive lines, where a good portion of the players who started in those positions last year return.
"We are going to want to wear teams out," Thorson said. "We might not light up the scoreboard, but we hope we can light up the win column. That's what matters."