Thursday marked the first official day of practice for the Silver State's prep football programs. That means high school coaches and athletes from Sparks to Wells to Laughlin were busy running around the gridiron. The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, Nevada's governing body for high school athletics, mandates three days, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, be set aside as non-contact days.
Local coaches have mixed feelings about that.
"The first couple days of practice are just so similar to what we did in the summer (offseason conditioning) and that's because we're not really allowed to hit yet," fourth-year Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare said. "But, we do have the helmets on and once that happens, it does feel like games are closer."
Nearly all Nevada high schools host some sort of summer football conditioning program that is comprised of weightlifting and non-contact drills.
Mondays marks the first day of contact drills, when players can suit up in full pads. Most teams will practice all of next week before a scrimmage Aug. 22. Then teams get in another week of workouts before the first weekend of games Aug. 28-29.
"Official practice starts Monday," Sparks football coach Rob Kittrell quipped, alluding to the full-contact drills. "Right now, we're still doing a lot of stuff we did during the summer, just with helmets on. But, there's still an excitement because you know you're right there, close to hitting."
At 4A Spanish Springs, Hare said he's got nearly 160 players out for the Cougars' gridiron program — freshman, JV and varsity. He admitted those numbers are down a bit from years' past, but he's not worried.
"I'm very pleased with our numbers," he said. "They're a little lower, but I think that's just because we've trimmed the guys, who just wanted to put a jersey on and be part of the team, but weren't really interested in working hard ... I think that says something about our program. We're not just out here to play, but that we want to be successful."
Spanish Springs kicks off its season Aug. 28 at home against Carson.
At 3A Sparks, Kittrell said his numbers are up and said that's due largely to higher freshmen numbers. The Railroaders freshmen squad is expected to field its largest roster, since the 2001 zoning realignment that cut the SHS enrollment by nearly a third.
Kittrell, who also serves as the Sparks High athletic director, said its seems like forever ago since the Railroaders wrapped up their 2008 campaign last November.
"It's always a long time between seasons," Kittrell said. These next three months seem to fly by and the rest of the year just drags."
Sparks opens the fall campaign with a home game Aug. 28 against Wooster.
Spanish Springs and Sparks certainly weren't the only Rail City schools to get going Thursday. Reed, a perennial northern 4A power, also got to work in preparing for the fast-approaching season. The Raiders had 140 players ready for the first day of fall camp Thursday.
"I'm totally pleased with what we had. These kids have done everything we've asked," Reed coach Ernie Howren said. "At the same time, I'd always love to have more numbers. Still, I'm happy with what we've got.
"It's different than summer drills. We can't hit yet, but this is fall camp. The kids are buzzing. They're excited and ready to compete."
Reed will be on the road when it makes its season debut Aug. 29 at Bishop Manogue.