AUBREY — As temperatures finally limboed below 90 and the sun fell behind the school, the Bengals were hitting their stride on the practice field. Led by a siege of seniors, Braswell went through drills and instruction as light began to fade on practice fields without lights.
The team started practice at 7 p.m. to avoid the heat, but the time mattered little, especially to upperclassmen intent on starting their season as they want to end it — with playoff intensity.
In a young program still hunting for the postseason, quarterback Greyson Thompson, linebacker Justin Vu and receiver Cam Smith among others led the Bengals in day one, and head coach Cody Moore was pleased with his team’s enthusiasm, even if the practice wasn’t spotless.
“We weren’t good in a lot of ways but it wasn’t because of effort, it’s because that’s where you usually start,” Moore said. “That’s what’s great about practice, to see where we are right now and see where we’re going to be at the end of the year, that’s the most rewarding part.”
As the night sent the practice fields into darkness, Moore and his team jogged to the lighted JV/Soccer field for the final hour and change.
The players listened while the coaches installed and flew around when it was time to make plays either in drills or against the other side of the ball.
“The energy was great,” Moore said. “They’ve been ready to get out here all summer and probably since they walked off the field last year against Denison, so they’re excited. The challenge is in the consistency. Can you be excited every day? And I think we’ll be able to do that. We have some great senior leadership so it’s a little bit of a different feel around here.”
With the program entering its fourth year, a lot of the players who started as freshmen with the program have been Bengals for its entire existence. Now, they have a chance to make Braswell history by being the first team to make the playoffs.
With the number of returners, the team was far more comfortable on the field and with the coaches as less had to be said, allowing them to focus on improving .
“We’re a lot further along than we’ve ever been,” Thompson said. “We’ve improved in all areas of the game and I can tell guys are more comfortable. Guys are older and more experienced and ready to play on varsity. Some of us have been together for four years now.”
Braswell will practice at night again Tuesday before falling back into a more normal schedule with school starting up.
Regardless of the time, there’s a cautious feeling of anticipation in the eyes of the players as they are desperate to make this year the Bengals’ breakout campaign.
“There’s not a lot of yelling that has to happen, and that’s part of the maturation process,” Moore said. “Our guys know how to practice and what the expectations are, and now the culture is set. They know what it takes to get better and they come out and do it.”