WAYNE — On a small grass lot nestled in between the football and baseball fields, Monday morning was a familiar sight for Wayne High School football coach Tom Harmon as the Pioneers officially opened practice for the 2019 season.

"The thing I like about football season is that it happens every year," Harmon said following Monday's first practice. "It gives you something to look forward to because its always nice when you get to see people develop physical and emotionally. It's a fun time."

The return to the field this year comes with bittersweet emotions for both players and coaches alike after a car accident took the life of WHS sophomore Colt Adams in late May. Though gone in a physical sense, Harmon alluded to Adams' character as a lasting presence in the locker room and under the lights for the Pioneers.

"Someone of his caliber can never just be replaced, and the kids understand that," Harmon said. "It's a tough lesson to learn at a young age, but unfortunately we live in a world where things happen. But the big thing I think this team will take from it is the qualities that he had. When you live a life like he lived, that stuff rubs off on the people he was around and they are better people because of him."

Teammates are still solidifying ideas on how to best honor Adams' life and carry his name with them this season, but Harmon said the main thing is finding an appropriate way to pay respects to a teammate, friend, brother and son taken too soon.

"They are still talking about some of the stuff they want to do, but number one is you always want to be respectful," Harmon said. "Take his locker, for example. No one has moved anything in his locker and it's nothing but respect. The only way to go forward now is to honor his memory by making the most of every day."

Looking forward, Harmon and the Pioneers now focus on an important few weeks of practice before rolling into the regular season.

Harmon's squad brings back a wealth of experience from a year ago and he said he's seeing early signs of good leadership from the rising senior class, something the Pioneers will need with a tough schedule, kicking things off with its home opener against Spring Valley on Aug. 30.

"This stuff like running around without your pads on and working on schemes only does so much, but you have to have it done to at least know what you need to do," said Harmon. "Football season starts when bodies start running into each other and we see what kind of physicality we're gonna have, but this is one of the most coachable groups I've ever had and I think they are willing and eager to do what we tell them to do."

The most important thing Harmon wants his student athletes to do?

Well, it doesn't require tackles, formations or routes.

He said the hardships the team faced just before the start of summer serve as a constant reminder that life doesn't revolve around any one sport or activity — and Harmon is reveling in that truth.

"There's a relaxing element to it all because we get caught up in competitiveness. But, in the end, we can't forget to have a good time," Harmon said. "There are more important things in life, and it really puts things into perspective."

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