MATTOON — Monday was a welcome sight for Mattoon High School football coach Troy Johnson. The players he's relying on the most showed up to camp in shape and ready to go and the senior class has already taken charge in terms of a leadership aspect.
All-in-all, it was a good first day of football practice for the Green Wave, who are looking to improve on their 2-7 mark from last season.
"The first day was actually pretty good. The kids that we are counting on are in shape and the kids that were here this summer are in shape," Johnson said. "I feel good about it. Hopefully, we can bring the other guys along. We have to create some depth and we will see how it goes."
Mattoon's first game is at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24, at home against Triad. Johnson reminded everyone who the week one opponent is by wearing a sweatshirt that said "Beat Triad." Johnson plans to wear a new sweatshirt each week with the next opponent. After Triad, there should be a "Beat Mascoutah" shirt and then a "Beat Lincoln" shirt.
"I believe there's going to be one coming for every week. Obviously, we started with this one and I have next week already in there," Johnson said. "I believe the gameplan is to have one for every week."
For Johnson, this was his 10th year running the first practice for Mattoon as the Green Wave's head coach.
While practice technically started on Monday, there was no shortage of summer workout programs for the players. Some of the offseason training consisted of different camps and different workouts throughout the weeks.
Johnson thought the attendance throughout the summer could've been better.
"It wasn't horrible. Our senior class was awesome," Johnson said. "I have a lot of committed seniors and their commitment level is very high. We just have to bring those younger kids along and show them reliability and accountability and stuff like that. That's part of what we do."
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There are 18 seniors on this season's roster and Johnson said it didn't take this senior class long to take on leadership roles with the team.
"Good football teams are led by seniors, they just always are. You have to have juniors who are contributing, but if you want to be successful, the senior class is the class that you look for in football because it's a physical sport," Johnson said. "Normally those kids that are seniors, they are the most physical. We rely on them a lot and they are a good group and they are working hard. That's really all I ask for."
As a whole, Johnson said there were about 65 players at practice and he hopes by the end to have a couple more players return to the team. Johnson wished he had more players out not just to help the team, but because he feels so many students can learn more life lessons from the game of football.
"I am still 20 to 30 shy of what I would like to have because I feel there are some kids, and I am not talking wins and losses, I am talking about participation and competing and learning teamwork and responsibility and accountability and reliability and all of those abilities," Johnson said. "There are kids, they might not help us, but I think it's good for their future because a lot of these guys are going to be your community leaders. There are a lot of things you learn here.
"Toughness, life isn't easy and so you learn a lot of that in football. You are going to get knocked down and are you going to get up. I think that's taught in this game. I just wish more kids would participate and do that. I would take 200 if I could get them."
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