The excitement that Lake Dallas head football coach Michael Young had for the first day of fall practice kept him up during the wee hours on the morning of Sept. 7.
Entering his 26th season coaching, he still had goosebumps in the hours and minutes leading up to the first time when he and every other head football coach in Classes 5A and 6A were permitted by the University Interscholastic League to watch their players snap on the helmets.
"Even after all of these years, I was up at 2 o'clock and got some water and tried to go back to sleep,” he said. “I think a lot of these coaches are still like that. I think a lot of these kids were, too. It's always exciting on the first day."
In a normal year, Labor Day meant practice for only Lake Dallas’ varsity team as the Falcons would prepare for their second or third game of the season.
But, this isn’t a normal year. The Falcons had only five days to get ready for their inter-squad scrimmage on Sept. 12. The scrimmage serves as a tune-up for a preseason scrimmage Sept. 17 at Azle, followed by Lake Dallas’ regular-season opener Sept. 25 against Denton.
Denton ISD teams chose not to practice on Labor Day, meaning Lake Dallas has one extra day to prepare for a rematch of a thriller from a season ago against Denton. The Broncos won that game 37-34 in overtime.
The format for Lake Dallas’ team scrimmage at Falcon Stadium was 40 plays. In past years, the team’s top players would get in 15 plays before handing over the action to the junior varsity and freshman teams. But because spring practice was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Falcon varsity team was on the field for about 35 snaps.
In the days leading up to the scrimmage, Lake Dallas, per UIL rules, was only in helmets in the first two days of practice before pads were allowed to be put on Wednesday and contact allowed for the first time on Friday.
The offensive and defensive linemen benefited the most when pads were put on for the first time Friday.
"That's the one thing without pads, is that you can build some bad habits along on the offensive and defensive lines, because they're just not doing technique stuff that you want them to do with your hands,” Young said. “It'll be really important to get their helmets and shoulder pads and doing some of that."
The Falcons worked out in warm and humid conditions on Labor Day with temperatures reaching into the middle to upper 80s and the heat index approaching 95 degrees.
"I was afraid that it was going to be cool today, but we needed a hot day, and they got it," Young said. "(First day of practice) was great. I was excited about it. I think the kids were too. They came out on a holiday and practiced and got after it."
Depth has been a big topic among teams as they try to navigate through the pandemic. Young has already been busy grooming players at multiple positions, just in case someone on his team contracts an illness or is injured.
Lake Dallas will take to the field Thursday at Azle in what will be the Falcons’ first live game action since last November. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Hornet Field.
Young is in communication with Azle head coach Devon Dorris regarding the format of the scrimmage.
The scrimmage will give Lake Dallas a chance to showcase position battles.
Senior quarterback Trevor Moon took over under center last year after Brandon Engel went down to injury but will now have to duel it out with junior Brendan Sorsby, sophomore Micaiah Brooks and senior Trevor Morgan to retain the starting job.
Running back is another position battle to watch in the preseason. Sophomore Aundre Minnifield, junior Drew McKinney and senior Hunter Markham are expected to split playing time this year.
Lake Dallas seeks to make up for the explosive plays from a year ago on both sides of the ball from current Texas Tech freshman Kobee Minor. He totaled 662 all-purpose yards and on defense finished with 72 tackles, five interceptions and blocked three field goals.
Young said he likes what he has seen from his secondary during the summer, especially from seniors Josef Taylor and Kalan Ferguson.
“I want to see us compete,” Young said. “Azle had a really good team last year and they're really supposed to be good again this year. I know some people go into a scrimmage and run a lot of different things and get different looks. That's all fine. But I want us to go in there and compete and get after them. When we get done with the scrimmage, I want to feel like that we won the scrimmage.”