The first day of football practice is never the most crisp, but ninth-year coach Barry Holmen wasted no time installing new plays Wednesday at Magic City Campus.
The Minot High School football team has much to accomplish in a shorter time frame than usual, so the coaching staff challenged players to quickly learn concepts.
"Our goals every year at the beginning is by the end of our third day of no contact that we give everybody the opportunity to learn their assignment, position-wise," Holmen said, "so that when we actually do play some football on Saturday morning - when we're allowed to strike - kids have a good chance to go at full speed."
MHS typically scrimmages other area teams at the end of the second week of practice. This year's scrimmages at Minot State University will be Tuesday and feature Bishop Ryan, Des Lacs-Burington, Surrey, Velva and Williams County. Teams must go through three days of no-contact practice, leaving little time between Saturday and Tuesday for the Magicians to get used to hitting again.
"What we've done, really, is broken our preseason into three chunks," Holmen said. "We're gonna get to the weekend and then we're gonna assess and then already we turn around and on Tuesday we scrimmage. We can reassess and actually have played some football and watch film and do some things.
"And then we have the remaining part of the week to wrap up two-a-days because school starts that following Monday."
Aug. 26 marks the first of two teacher workdays before students report on Aug. 28. MHS opens the season against West Fargo at 8 p.m. on Aug. 30 at Duane Carlson Stadium.
For senior quarterback Alex Yanosko, the opening of this preseason was his most comfortable start following two years as the starter.
"It's just like reading the back of my hand," he said. "It's nothing now because I know what I'm doing. I ran these plays for three years and even the new plays I have a general understanding of because we've talked about 'em before, so I feel pretty comfortable."
Yanosko and many of the returning players benefited from a minicamp in June where coaches began to introduce new ideas. The first-team offense looked good at times during Wednesday's first practice and Yanosko appeared to have more zip on his oasses than in previous seasons. The quarterbacks focused on short routes and option reads.
"It was everything that I expected," Yanosko said. "We went over our base plays and got a few new plays in as well, so we're accelerating this process of understanding what we're supposed to do and we're executing early, which means we'll be ready sooner."
Yanosko's experience will help him guide newcomers like senior transfer Braden Rotta. The Boise, Idaho, native moved to Minot two weeks ago and is trying out at running back. Rotta immediately noticed a more committed, high-energy program than the one he last experienced as a sophomore in Boise.
"The coaching staff is great. Everybody's really positive," Rotta said. "They take it really seriously. You know, there's no messing around, no joking around. You get in there, you do what you need to do and that's that."
Players and coaches already started planning for the Packers, who knocked the Magicians out of the Class AAA playoffs in a 21-14 quarterfinal game last year. West Fargo is one of three East Region teams on what Holmen described as a "tougher" non-conference schedule than most years. MHS will face Fargo Davies and Grand Forks Red River on the road.
The Magicians finished 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the West Region in 2012. MHS lost first-team all-state defensive lineman Tanner Gust to graduation, but returns second-team selection Zach Danelson, a junior linebacker. Yanosko was a first-team selection and senior running back Brady Lampert and senior kicker Ben Love return as second-team selections.
Two-time all-state linebacker Kolton Larson will return to his spot on defense and at fullback following a season-ending foot injury in last year's second game.
Lampert was limited to certain drills Wednesday because of fluid causing discomfort in his right knee. The top tailback starts physical therapy today. Lampert had an MRI last week to see if he had a torn meniscus. The results were negative.
New coaching additions include Michael Anderson and Brent Sorenson. Both will coach the freshman team and assist with the varsity. Anderson will focus on defensive backs and Sorenson will focus on offensive skill positions.
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.