Thursday was the first day that high school football teams can begin practice. But only a few teams are taking advantage.
Harrisonburg and Buffalo Gap have some work to do. Both football teams went 2-8 last year falling short of expectations.
"Stressing about what was going on and just not having much fun,” Harrisonburg wide receiver Isaiah Hartzler said. “But then once I just relaxed and started going with it, having fun, most people need to learn it's a game and you gotta have fun.”
Other players are excited for starting a clean slate.
"We don't like losing, so to put that behind us,” Buffalo Gap junior running back Tristan Anderson said. “That's last year. This is this year. We're ready to go."
Both the Bison and Blue Streaks kicked off their seasons Thursday, the first day any team in the state was allowed to practice.
"I thought we needed to go ahead and get to work,” Harrisonburg head coach Chris Thurman. “After last season, we went 2-8, and the kids worked hard in the weight room, but we need to get out here and start practicing football. It's important for us to get better and work on what we need to work on."
Gap head coach Andy Cline saw good effort on Day 1.
"That's what you look for this time of year,” Cline said. “You want to see kids get out there and give maximum effort, and that's what we're getting."
Effort is where it begins for these programs. But a central message in both teams practices is to learn from last year's mistakes and believe a turnaround is right around the corner.
"We need to improve in so many different areas,” Thurman said. “We have kids that are very capable, but we just need to get better technique and be able to utilize all the things we got during the offseason to get better."
Cline is relying on the experience of his team.
"They've been together for a while, and like I've said before, they've had some struggles, but we're getting better,” Cline said. “That's all we can ask of them. To improve every single day, and that's what we're gonna do."
State titles are a part of the past for both programs. Maybe an early start can get them pointed back in that direction.
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