A physical first step
Chieftains welcome first day in pads
Matt Ditty tried going to bed the night of Aug. 15, but couldn't bring himself to fall asleep for more than three hours.
"I just kept waking up," Ditty said. "I was thinking about football."
More specifically, the senior linebacker had thoughts of Thursday -- the first day in pads -- running through his mind. The Chieftains took the practice field at 3:35 p.m. for their first practice in pads.
Ditty's primary reason for the anticipation? Simple. He just wanted to hit somebody.
"It's fun to go around and finally hit people instead of having dummies in your hand," Ditty said. "Dummies kind of get in the way. This will allow you to really get a feel for football."
One drill that displayed immediate intensity featured THS running backs. They pumped each other up by jumping and yelling before the drill that saw them in a dead-out sprint toward two defenders holding tackling pads. The running backs had to split the defenders, who wanted to knock them backwards.
"Guys are trying to make their mark," THS coach Mark Elston said. "It's hard to establish your mark when you can't really go full tilt. Now, guys can go full tilt and show us what they're made of and the abilities they have."
All summer and during the offseason, THS players battled tackling dummies. On Thursday, THS players battled each other.
"It's light years of difference because the pads don't fight back that much," Elston said. "When guys have dummies on the other side, it's difficult for them to do their proper techniques. Now, they can do their proper techniques and it will make blocking a lot more difficult, but it will mean playing defense is a lot more fun."
Senior wide receiver/defensive end Gabe Belobrajdic had looked forward to Thursday since summer camps.
He said the first day in pads would be one of the most physical days of the season.
"Nobody's going to take it easy on anybody," Belobrajdic said. "Especially since it's the first day. Everyone was yelling and excited for it."
Elston said most of the players should have been acclimated to playing in pads by Saturday.
"Oh, it'll get nasty," Elston said. "A lot of them are licking their chops to get hit. A few of them are not too sure they want to get hit right now."
So how will the first hit feel to Ditty?
"It will feel great," Ditty said, laughing. "There's not much more to say than that. We get a lot more excited when full pads come on. This is what it's going to be like every day."
Tonganoxie will open the season Aug. 31 on the road against Lansing.