Bishop Ryan football is ready.
Just ask newly appointed coach Zach Rudolph. He led the Lions in their first two-a-day practice of the season Wednesday, nine months removed from a state semifinal loss to Wahpeton.
A Minot State graduate and former wide receiver for the Beavers, Rudolph is excited to get to work. And so are his players.
"We wanna continue our winning tradition here and try to improve on what we did last year," senior lineman Jonah Kramer said. "If we come to practice, work hard and keep improving day by day, hopefully we'll be in contention at the end of the year."
The Lions started the day early, their first practice beginning at 8 a.m.
Ryan players then returned for another round at 6 p.m. Two-a-day practices will continue into next week, the last of which is scheduled for Aug. 20.
Two weeks away from its season opener in Velva, Ryan took the practice field Wednesday night with team chemistry in mind. The Xs and Os can wait for now.
"That (team chemistry) is the one thing that's most important, in my opinion," Rudolph said. "If the team gets along well and has good chemistry, I think the sky's the limit. I really do.
"If you don't have that chemistry, it doesn't matter how good your Xs and Os are."
Armed with cleats and helmets - no pads - the Lions ran through basic fundamental drills during practice.
By the end of the month, they'll begin what they hope to be another Class AA playoff charge.
Rudolph plans to introduce the specifics of his gameplan in the next few days.
"The first day, everyone's excited. The challenge is gonna come when we get to Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, when things start to get a little more monotonous," he said. "I've been pleased with how we've been focused, and our seniors do a great job of that."
Despite missing key names like Austin Eggl, Brody Bosch and Mason Kramer, the Lions return a number of seniors this year along with a strong presence in the trenches.
Jonah Kramer is one of four senior lineman for Ryan. Carson Schell is another.
Like many of his teammates, Schell remembers well the disappointment of last season's semifinal defeat. With a young team and a new head coach, Schell is confident the Lions are poised for another title-game push.
"We've all been staying in shape, lifting weights, always trying to get better," he said. "I think we can do just as good as last year. If we can stay healthy and get people to step up, we could even be better."
Joe Mellenbruch covers Class B high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.