MORRIS — There was no question last season that the Morris football team was battle-tested. The Redskins had one of the top totals of playoff points in the state, but their 4-5 record kept them out of the playoffs and unable to test their postseason pedigree.
Gone from the schedule this year are 11-1 Washington, 12-4 Class 6A runner-up Crete-Monee, 8-2 DeKalb and 8-3 Yorkville. In their place are 1-8 Manteno, 5-5 Plano, 4-5 Sandwich and 5-5 Rochelle as the Redskins move from the Northern Illinois Big 12 East into the Interstate Eight Conference. Still on the schedule will be 10-2 Coal City, 8-3 Sycamore, and 7-4 Kaneland, as well as 0-9 Ottawa and 3-6 LaSalle-Peru.
On paper, at least, it looks like Morris should be able to find that one win that eluded it last year and get into the playoffs.
But, head coach Alan Thorson and the Redskins know that games aren't played on paper.
"We are in a different conference, but that doesn't mean we are just going to run right through it," Thorson said Monday at the first official day of practice. "Everyone in that conference is going to be gunning for us. We're just glad to be out here on the first day of practice and playing football."
As outlined by the IHSA, the first two days of practice will consist of helmets only, then there will be three days of helmets and shoulder pads. The teams can wear full pads and go full contact on Saturday.
"The first few days will be mostly mental review and conditioning," Thorson said. "We had a camp a week ago, then took last week off. These first two days with just the helmets are more of a walk-through and to get us back into our routine.
"It does feel different, though. We feel it as coaches, the kids seem more excited, they are yelling a little louder and there's more urgency today. It's finally football season. It's what we've been waiting for since the last game of last season."
Another thing that excites Thorson is the fact that his team doesn't have anyone dinged up with nagging injuries from the rigors of full contact in the previous week.
"This is one of the few times during the year that I can say that we are totally healthy," he said. "That's always nice to see. These guys are itching to get out on the field and hit, though.
"We know we have our work cut out for us right away. Coal City has a lot of talented kids coming back from a team that went 10-2 last year. We are going to have to be ready right from the start. I don't think that's going to be a problem with this group, though. The players are ready to go, the coaches are ready to go. There's only 18 days until the first game, and they are going to go by a lot faster than we think. It will come up on us quick, but I think we'll be ready."