The sounds of the season filled the ears of coaches, players and curious fans Thursday.
The pounding of cleats, tweets of whistles and even the occasional hurling of breakfast marked the beginning of high school football practice in Ohio on Thursday. West Virginia schools start official workouts on Monday. Kentucky schools have been underway for two weeks.
"We're excited to get started," said new Chesapeake coach Todd Knipp, formerly head coach at Rock Hill and an assistant with the Panthers last season. "The transition has been smooth. The kids have responded well. We put in a lot of work in the last year and I'm eager to see how it works out."
Knipp said his goal was to install the offense and defense, which are similar to what the Panthers ran in recent seasons, before players are allowed to practice in helmets and shoulder pads on Saturday. Full-contact practices begin Aug. 7. The Panthers' first scrimmage is Aug. 12 at Trimble. Knipp replaced Andy Clark, who resigned to become athleteic director at Fairfield Union High School."
"Being here last year has helped me get to know the kids," Knipp said. "We'll run a very, very similar offense and defense to what Andy did."
Chesapeake's practice took place with participants enthusiastic, yet somber. Former Panthers' basketball player Tanner Harr died Wednesday after a two-year fight with cancer. His visitation will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Hall Funeral Home, 625 Ohio 775, Proctorville, Ohio. Harr's funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday.
Thursday's practice at South Point was moving for Pointers coach James Gifford, whose son Grant is a senior and son Ethan is a player at the University of Charleston.
"It's kind of an emotional day," coach Gifford said. "It's been a lot of fun coaching my boys. It's been an incredible journey with my boys and daughter (Kaitlynn) with me on the sidelines."
Fairland's practice started earlier than most, as the Dragons ran the "Midnight Mile" with the school's cross country team and other athletes at Jim Mayo Memorial Stadium.
"What a great way to kick it off," Cunningham said.
Cunningham said he draws inspiration from cross country/track/wrestling coach Chuck Wentz.
"Regardless of the sport, he puts in the time," Cunningham said. "I've learned a lot from watching him do what he does."
Wentz said he thanked God that Wednesday's thunder and lightning stopped before the run, allowing his team, the football players, former athletes and others to get in a workout.
"Any time you can bring community members together for the betterment of the youth, it's a great day," Wentz said.
South Gallia athletic director and assistant coach Jack James shared his sense of humor regarding the first day of practice.
"Today is the official start of season 33 of me coaching football," James said. "Am I crazy?"