The look on Lutheran St. Charles football player Arcullous Heard’s face spoke volumes.
Monday, Aug. 6 marked the first day of fall practices for local high school athletes in the St. Charles County area and, for Heard and his Cougar teammates, that meant time to hit the field again – but this time around the practices count for real.
Heard, a senior running back, had the look of a kid on Christmas morning.
“To be able to get back out here and start practicing, it’s just phenomenal,” Heard said. “All the guys are excited, coaches are excited, and we’re just trying to come out here, have fun and win a championship.”
It also was a fun start to the fall season for Lutheran St. Charles coach Arlen Harris, who is back leading the program after coaching at IMG Academy in Florida last year.
“It feel great [to be back],” Harris said. I joked with everybody when I came back that I took a 10-month vacation, but this is where it all started for me at the head coaching level. I know all these kids and being back here in this environment where we are still building something, it’s a special place.”
The Cougars, like all other area football teams, are limited during the first two days of this week [Aug. 6 and 7] to working in just helmets and shoulder pads with no contact drills allowed, per National Federation of State High School and Missouri State High School Activities Association guidelines.
On the third through fifth days of practice, football teams are allowed to have contact drills with blocking sleds and tackling dummies.
On the sixth day of practice, football teams are allowed to hold live contact drills during workouts.
The guidelines help bring the players along slowly and help them adjust to practicing in the summer heat.
The temperature at the Cougars’ practice on Monday hovered at around 98 degrees on the field turf at Lutheran.
“Conditioning is huge for us because that’s just as much mental as it is physical,” Lutheran St. Charles coach Arlen Harris said. “Last week, we were spoiled because it wasn’t really hot and now it’s hot. So now it’s making sure those guys are hydrated and we are taking care of them so that when we come out here we are ready to go.”
Getting acclimated to the summer practice routine is not as big a deal these days for many teams.
Schools such as Francis Howell, Fort Zumwalt West, Fort Zumwalt North, along with Lutheran St. Charles have many players that work out in the weight room over the winter and do spring drills with the team. That extra activity makes the opening week of practice a lot smoother for teams.
“Well, we work hard all year round, so we are out here running every day, doing conditioning every day, so it’s not really that big of a change,” Heard said. “The biggest deal for us is the time switch from waking up early and coming in at 6 o’clock in the morning and now getting to sleep in and coming at 3 and practicing at 4. So, that’s the biggest change.”
Harris noted that the Cougars’ spring camp in June helped prepare them for the opening week of practice.
“Being able to come out and set that game plan and get those guys to buy in was huge,” Harris said. “A lot of them play other sports, too, so their expectations were up. So when we get out here at that time, it’s more a dress rehearsal [for them].”
Lutheran made the most of its allowed 20 contact days between May and July.
Harris said the Cougars will spend the first few days focusing on technique for each position and cleaning up fundamentals.
“We’ve been working all summer and I think we’re in good [condition],” Harris said. “We’ll take the first few days to work on technical things and reiterate everything we worked on over the summer.”