BELLINGHAM - The pads may not have even been checked out yet and the helmets sat on the sidelines for most if not all of practice, but the high school football season arrived on Wednesday, Aug. 21.
All 11 Whatcom County football teams were scheduled to have their first practice on the first day the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association allowed.
And the tone for a season can be set early.
"I think it went well," Bellingham lineman Braden Farlow said after the Red Raiders wrapped up their first practice session. "All the people that were here over the summer, they remember their stuff and people that are new picked it up pretty easily."
Though Bellingham ran through a number of drills early and even did some seven-on-seven work, one of the top priorities was conditioning.
Coach Steve Wilson, who is entering his second year with the program, took his team to the weight room midway through practice and then had it run a number of conditioning drills on a sunny, but not too hot mid-August afternoon.
"It went really smooth, Wilson said. "It was fast, which is always a good thing. The kids were right on speed. They showed good team unity. We didn't have to get on them, as far as going harder. They all gave 100 percent, which is good."
Wilson said he has been impressed with this group's ability to work together and work hard throughout the offseason.
"We've been a lot better in the weight room this year," senior lineman Nick Hanks said. "We've done a lot of seven-on-sevens after lifting. We spend a lot of time hanging out together. The O-line really gets along and does things together, and I know a lot of the other positions do, too. It's a lot easier this year than last year. Last year, we had a hard time getting people out for seven-on sevens."
The Red Raiders are hungry to improve upon a 1-9 campaign in 2012 that saw them pick up their only win against Anacortes in October.
"I'd say the first couple of days are crucial," senior receiver/defensive back/punter Noah Silverman said. "We get to figure out who's playing where and who's playing what and their capability on and off the field and how we'll work together as teammates."
And there is nowhere the Red Raiders would like to function better as a team in 2013 than on defense.
Bellingham allowed an average of 43.3 points and 309.1 yards rushing per game last year.
"We have to improve our defense," Farlow said. "We gave up a lot of yards on the ground. We're doing all we can to fix that."
Hanks said the biggest thing the Red Raiders must do to improve defensively is reducing missed tackles - something they'll get focus heavily on once they get into pads later this weeks.
"If we can do what it takes to make tackles and improve on defense, I think we'll improve this year," Hanks said. "We need to keep making plays on offense and make sure we do what we're supposed to do - not dropping balls and making blocks."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
FOOTBALL CAMP UPDATES
This is the first of 11 preseason looks at the high school football programs in Whatcom County. Look for the 2013 season preview in the Sept. 6 edition of The Bellingham Herald.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.