AUSTIN EDITION -- Austin begins with high hope
High school football practice opens with 33 players
By Guy N. Limbeck
With the start of another new season brings hope and optimism.
That was the feeling of the Austin High football team as it begin practice on Monday for the 2002 season.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm today," Austin senior lineman Riley Brolsma said. "The first day is always exciting."
Brolsma is one of four captains on the squad, joining fellow seniors Mike Gravelle, Jesse Krueger and Billy Anderson.
Equipment was handed out on Monday and the Packers also begin two-a-day practices. The players are not yet in pads.
"The first day you wish you could be out there hitting," Gravelle, a running back, said. "That's what everybody's pumped up for."
The Packers had 33 players out for varsity practice on Monday. Coach Steve Knox, in his 16th season as the head coach at Austin, expects about 35 varsity players to suit up, down slightly from a year ago.
"It's good to be back," senior lineman Ethan Simonson said. "You gotta love football. We're a little short in numbers, but we have enough talent."
Austin is coming off a 5-5 season, 4-4 in the Big Nine Conference. The Packers are hoping hard work in the offseason pays off.
"We put a lot time in the weight room," Gravelle said. "And we worked on different skills and kept in shape."
"The captains have done a nice job of getting them ready," Knox said. "They're excited and have the desire to be out here."
Knox said things went smoothly the first day, which was cool and overcast with a slight amount of rain for the afternoon practice.
"Once we get into pads it will be a lot harder," Gravelle said.
The Packers currently have 20 seniors, 14 juniors and one sophomore on the varsity roster. Knox returns four starters on both offense and defense. "We just have to find out what they can do and plug them into the right spots," Knox said.
An interesting battle during training camp will be at quarterback. Junior Mark Cavanaugh ended up as the starter at the end of the 2001 season. He will be battling left-hander senior Tucker Schieck for the starting job this fall. Schieck also saw some action a year ago.
While the Packers lost three starters on the offensive line, they return Brolsma, 6-foot-3 and 230 and Simonson, 6-2, 250. They do have more overall size up front this year, including a pair of 295-pounders in junior Jon Bastyr and sophomore Matt Day. Senior Tony Weis is listed at 280 and Tyler Nelson is 265.
"We've got some big ponies now," Brolsma said. "I think the size is definitely going to help."
The Packers lost in the Section 1AAAA semifinals to Waseca by a point last year. They fell in the section finals in 2000.
"We want a winning season, that's a big goal," Simonson said. "And basically we want to make it to state."