It has been a long offseason for Snider's Randy Holtz.
The 6-foot-6, 342-pound lineman hasn't been able to work out with the team due to back and leg injuries, so the first week of practice and Thursday's first official day with pads was a welcomed occasion for the now-healthy Panther.
“It feels good to be back out here on the grass,” Holtz said. “It sucked when I was on the sideline, but I'm proud of my teammates for going out there and working as hard as they could.”
With most area teams participating a two-a-day practices this week, there's no easing into it for Holtz, as the Panthers report for team meetings at 6:30 a.m. and return to the field late afternoon.
“It really works your mental toughness going out here practicing twice a day,” he said.
But it's nothing for a Snider team that features a whopping 37 seniors – they've been here before.
“It's a next guy up type of thing,” Holtz said. “We have so many, and obviously we all can't play, but that just gives us so many different options for different sets and schemes.”
While Holtz is focused on the ensuing season, he does have a decision to make about where he'll go to college. He's down to his final two colleges, IU and Purdue, and said he'll make his choice toward the end of or immediately after the season.
“Those two schools especially are close to home,” Holtz said. “They're both good for what I want to go to college for and what I want to do after college; they're just good up and coming programs.”
Fellow senior Alonzo Derrick returns as a top target for senior quarterback Jon Barnes Jr., and he said the Panthers' goal remains the same.
“Our goal every year is a state championship, and last year we didn't accomplish that,” Derrick said. “We didn't put enough stuff together, execute enough to go that far.”
For as much veteran experience as Snider has, Concordia has the opposite.
Still, the youthful Cadets were just as eager for the first day with full pads Thursday.
“It's a lot of work, but it's really worth it,” junior receiver Tyler Grossman said of the brutal week of practice. “We jell as a team, and we're really getting better out here.”
The Cadets return just five from varsity from a year ago, so Grossman said the team must work harder than others to make up for that.
“We have some experience here and there, and we have some people that are still learning things,” he said. “We have to work harder than the other teams.”
Grossman reeled in 37 catches for 659 yards and three touchdowns in 2018 and expects to take on more of a leadership role on the field and in the locker room this season.
“Got to take part of a role if someone doesn't know what they're doing, help them out and show them a thing or two,” he said. “A lot of kids don't have experience out here, so every little things helps them.”
He has a new quarterback throwing to him this season in junior Brandon Davis.
“He can throw and run really well if the pocket collapses,” Grossman said of Davis. “He can roll out and throw on the run really well. It helps as a receiver, so I can just get open for him and he can just give us the ball.”
This week might be the toughest for area football players, but Grossman knows the work they put in now will pay off later.
“It's a really big deal, because if we don't show up now, we're going to be lazy, lackadaisical later, but if we work hard we'll be better as a team,” he said.