SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — There isn’t much that compares to the first practice of the season.
“This is my 18th year doing it and I don’t get a wink of sleep the night before,” Kickapoo head football coach Nate Thomas said. “All of us coaches treat this like Christmas Eve.”
Practices opened for all fall sports across Missouri on Monday. For football, it follows a dead-week that splits summer and fall camps.
“I was just excited to get out here after having the week off,” Kickapoo junior Andrew Link said. “We ended on contact camp with Thayer, Catholic and Ozark. To get back out here was a good time.”
With a healthy sized graduating class in 2021, the Kickapoo Chiefs have their share of new faces on the field this season. Including a new quarterback in Kylin Mabins.
“He’s just a sophomore, which is great,” Thomas said. “We have him in our program for the next three years. It’s the first time we had ever brought up a freshman in my time here at the JV level and then took some snaps on Friday night. We think he has the tools to run our offense the way it needs to be run.”
That includes talent around him. The Chiefs are expecting big things from Andrew Link and wide receiver Zaide Lowery.
“A lot of the times last year I would catch a lot of passes,” Lowery said. “This year I want to work on blocking and get stuff going for my other teammates. All of our younger guys, we really have to lead the team.”
Like last season, the Chiefs are preparing for the fall to be a bit different. With masks, distancing and whatever possible to play every snap.
“That threat is still there without a doubt. We are taking every precaution that we can of masking and spraying stuff down and making sure our seniors are guaranteed all 10 games of the season,” Thomas said. “We are just trying to protect our season, protect our bubble that we have here. It’s a challenge without a doubt, but everyone is in the same boat.”
“We still have the COVID stuff going on, but being out here with everyone and practicing together without as many restrictions as last year is good,” Link said.
Regardless, the countdown to the friday night lights is on.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Lowery said. “We have around 18 days until we play our first game, so it’s really exciting. We just have to come out with a lot of energy.”
The Chiefs will open the season on the road against Camdenton on August 27.