Southern Boone High and the town of Ashland have something to cheer about on Friday nights this fall.
Monday was the first day of practice for the Eagles’ 45 varsity football players. The team’s coach, Mike Hall, is set to return to the varsity sidelines. Hall coached junior varsity football for Southern Boone last year.
“It feels good,” Hall said. “It’s been awhile. It’s been a wait, but I think it’s been worth the wait.”
Hall said he wasn’t thrilled with his players’ first-day efforts, but that didn’t concern him too much.
“You can’t ever come in with too high of expectations on your first practice,” Hall said.
Still, Hall and his coaching staff are entering their first season with optimism.
“We feel if we win a game, that’s a level of success for us,” Hall said. “Every one we can build on, that is just another level. We’d like to try and go .500. Realistically, we think that’s something we could do, but one or two wins is not going to be a disappointment.”
Shay Sapp, a junior tight end, said he would be satisfied with a .500 record as well, but thinks the team can excel past the goal.
“I hope to go about 7-3,” Sapp said. “I know districts is going to be real tough, so I want to get a lot of wins before we get there.”
Sapp is one of 11 juniors on the Eagles, who have seven seniors. Hall said he expected a shortage of upperclassmen and that his staff needs to focus on keeping the younger players interested in continuing the program. Nineteen freshmen came out for the opening of practices.
“Hopefully our numbers will go up, and we’ll sustain the numbers of those freshmen that are out now through when they’re seniors,” Hall said.
There were many things that made the Southern Boone coaching job irresistible for Hall.
“The opportunity to have a chance to get in at the ground level of a program and start from scratch,” Hall said. “You know, establish tradition and have an input on the program from the very beginning.”
Ashland has been instrumental in helping the football program start off.
“I can’t even express how supportive the community has been, and the school as well,” Hall said. “The community has just been unbelievable. You know, turning out to volunteer on building projects and fundraising. It’s just been amazing.”
During practice, Hall said the players would go over fundamentals they learned at summer camp and start installing plays.
For most, spirits were high throughout the entire practice.
“It was pretty good until we started running,” Sapp said.