AUGUSTA — For many players on the Cony football team, it wasn’t a summer of sitting around. They lifted weights. They ran frequently. At 7-on-7s, they threw passes, ran routes and covered receivers.

But even for the most ardent workers, Monday — and the first day of practice it carried with it — packed a punch.

Cony High School football players work on a handoff during practice Monday morning in Augusta. Monday marked the first day fall sports teams could start practicing. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

“No matter how well you keep yourself in condition, it’s always hard that first day back,” senior lineman Mitch MacFarland said. “You’re trying to compete with other people instead of just yourself.”

That was the case on all gridirons, fields and pitches across the state. The fall season officially began Monday, and players in all sports experienced the joy the first day of the season brings — as well as the work.

“We certainly had a lot of energy this morning, which we expected. They’ve been waiting around for eight or nine months to get back out here and ready to go,” Cony coach B.L. Lippert said. “We certainly were bouncing around and had some energy this morning, the coaching staff included.”

For the Rams, day one meant a combination of technical practice and conditioning work. Skill players and linemen alike worked on agility drills in addition to handoffs and pass protection, respectively, and even with the temperatures more manageable than last week’s oppressive heat, the combination caught some players off guard — even with the afternoon session still to come.

“No matter how much you prepare, the energy required for a practice is new,” Lippert said. “They’ll get back into the swing of things shortly, but there are a few people sucking wind out there. That’s the case every year.”

Cony High School football coach B.L. Lippert talks to his team during practice Monday morning in Augusta. Monday marked the first day fall sports teams could start practicing. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

MacFarland said the team’s offseason work made some aspects of practice easier, but others remained an adjustment.

“Physicality-wise, yes it is (easier),” he said. “But conditioning-wise, you can’t really get anyone to condition by themselves, so it’s kind of hard. The conditioning isn’t quite there, but the physicality is there already.”

The workload, however, did little to dim the enthusiasm for a team that is looking for another strong season after last year’s 5-4 finish.

“We’ve got a chance to do something special this year, we’ve got a really good team,” senior lineman Nic Mills said. “Out practicing today we saw a lot of kids that can play, and we’ve got a lot of talent on our team. We went through a lot of people, we switched on and off at different positions, and everyone can play.”

Cony High School football players work through some drills during practice Monday morning in Augusta. Monday marked the first day fall sports teams could start practicing. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Confidence was in just as ample supply at Hall-Dale, where the boys soccer team was returning after a run to the C South semifinals. With most of the players coming off leading the baseball team to the state championship, guiding the basketball team to the state final or winning state titles for the track team, coach Andy Haskell said there’s a newfound desire to translate that success into the fall.

“I think in soccer they knew maybe they could go one round deeper, so there’s a kind of feeling that they’d like to get back,” he said. “They enjoy having success, and they just want to carry that success that they’ve had in basketball and baseball over into the soccer season.”

Winthrop’s Moriah Hajduk dribbles the ball during practice Monday morning in Winthrop. Monday marked the first day fall sports teams could start practicing. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Josh Nadeau, a junior striker who played on the basketball and baseball teams, said the championship mentality can cross from one sport to another.

“Definitely,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of winning people on this team. We’re used to it by now.”

The mission on the first day, Haskell said, was for the players to get the rhythm for the sport that gets lost after November.

“At Hall-Dale, it’s pretty much a basketball and baseball community, and the kids fit in soccer when they can,” he said. “The kids will get a little bit of everything. They’ll get some conditioning, they’ll get some techical work, they’ll get some tactical. Our objective is to spend the first five days slowly getting the kids back into shape so they don’t get injured in those early preseason scrimmages.”

Another successful program got back to work at Erskine, where the girls soccer team is looking to best last year’s season, which culminated with an upset loss to MCI in the B North prelims. With new coach Mike Falla running his first practice, however, there was an element of the unknown that went beyond what most teams experience on the first day.

“I’m inheriting a turn-key program. It’s always been successful,” said Falla, who previously coached the Erskine JV boys. “The first week here is going to be me getting to know the players, figuring out what positions everybody is going to play. It’s a clean slate.”

The Eagles are unsure how things will go, but confident in their new coach.

“We’re all a little bit nervous, but we’re excited,” senior forward Alana York said. “He seems like he’s going to be a good coach and it’s going to be a good season with him.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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