LAKEVIEW — The high school football season is officially underway.
Today, across the state, is the first day of two-a-day practices, with the first game less than three weeks away. One area team got things started at the first possible moment.
When the clock hit midnight, the Lakeview Wildcats took the field for their first practice of the year. With the lights shining bright, in a cool night air, the Wildcats began preparation for their first game on Aug. 29 at home against Morley Stanwood.
“It went really well. I was excited and I was impressed with the amount of fans we had here at midnight,” Lakeview coach Sean Rinehart said. “That is something special and speaks a lot about the type of community we have. For a midnight practice, I didn’t think it could have gone any better.
“The kids were excited, they are running everywhere. They were where they needed to be and I was impressed,” he added.
This was not the first Midnight Madness practice for Rinehart. His team in North Carolina did the same last year.
The Wildcats practiced from midnight until 2 a.m. before taking a break. The focus was getting on the same page.
“I really wanted to cover our basic defensive and offensive schemes,” Rinehart said. “A lot of the guys that have been around already have an edge on others. I wanted to get us all on the same page and to get better at the basics. Then we can work to the more complicated things.”
After the first session, Lakeview parents prepared breakfast for the players, coaches and staff. Following rest after breakfast, the Wildcats hit the field again at 5 a.m. and continued to around 7 a.m.
Lakeview went 5-4 a year ago, just missing out on the postseason. The final game loss to Big Rapids is motivation for the upcoming season, while the midnight practice is a chemistry builder for the team.
Rinehart has spent the summer getting his team to believe they can do something special this season.
“The day I came out here and watched film from last year, I knew this is a special team,” Rinehart said. “They just have to believe it. I think coming out here at midnight, getting them all on the same page, I think they are starting to believe they can have a special season.”
“We want to win a state championship. That’s what we all think,” Lakeview senior Brad Hamlin said. “We just have to keep working hard like we have all summer long.”
Lakeview will have a more routine practice schedule the rest of the preseason. After three days without pads — required by the Michigan High School Athletic Association — the team can put the pads on Thursday.
“The rest of the week will be the same two-a-day schedule they have been on the past couple of years, from 8 a.m. to noon,” Rinehart said. “I can’t wait for pads Thursday. That’s when you really find out what some of these kids will really be able to accomplish.”
By the time most teams around the state begin their practice, the Wildcats were already home with one full day under their belts.
“I plan on doing it every year. I loved it in North Carolina last year and this has turned out even better than I could have imagined,” Rinehart said of the midnight practice. “I do plan on doing this every year.”