SPRINGVILLE — The Iowa high school football season officially starts next Monday, when teams across the state can host their first official practices of 2017.
A few teams, though, get a jump-start.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association allows teams who run into scheduling conflicts throughout the year to play in “Week 0.” These teams — traditionally smaller schools — get to play a game a week early, then have a bye week later in the season or play a 10-game schedule.
Since they play a game a week earlier than others, these teams get to start practice one week ahead of the rest of the state, too.
So on Monday afternoon, Springville Coach Joe Martin led the Orioles through their first practice of the season.
“It’s crazy that it’s this early,” Martin said. “It feels early, I know that it’s August tomorrow. But we had camp last week, (and we’re) coming after it now with helmets. I love it.”
Springville — which plays 8-man football — opens up its season Friday, Aug. 18 against West Central before it heads to Central City for a rivalry game the next week.
Since the Orioles take on the Wildcats so early in the season, Martin said he enjoys a chance to get into the groove of things before their rivalry game. However, he recognizes the extra challenge starting earlier than most of the state, too.
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“As long as we come through injury-free. I think that’s always the big thing we want to do … but it is nice to get some of that rust off, too,” Martin said. “We’ve been very fortunate. We haven’t had a lot of negatives out of a Week 0 game, but I’m sure there are a lot of schools that wish they didn’t have to (play it).”
Last fall the Orioles finished with a 5-4 record, going 2-4 in district play. That was with 10 seniors. Now, Martin has just three seniors on his team. And he’s got just three juniors to back them up.
So with his team being mainly filled with underclassmen, Martin has had a difficult time figuring out his depth chart. However, with just 25 kids on his roster, Martin will be relying on a lot of them to make an impact.
“This is my first year, I think, where we’ve been so young,” Martin said. “(We’re looking for) anything that we can to try to find to motivate the kids. We have a lot of different guys rotating at different spots. It’s one of the first years where I probably haven’t had a depth chart … When it comes down to it, I really want it to be an open competition, and that’s something that we haven’t had here in a while.”
Henry Hoogland is one of those returning seniors. Hoogland picked up 220 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the first three games last season before breaking his leg in the fourth game. He’s joined by junior Zach March — who Martin expects to be his starting quarterback — as two of the leaders on the team, Martin said.
Both March and Hoogland recognize that they have a very different team this season than last, being much smaller and younger than many in their district. However, they aren’t letting that slow them down. Hoogland said they’ll find a way to take advantage and get past teams.
“We’re not going to outmuscle teams, and we’re not bigger than anybody, so we have to out-hustle them,” Hoogland said. “I think we’ll be ready to out-hustle people. Maybe not outmuscle people, but definitely be able to out-hustle people.”
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