As the 142 Sumner High School football players warmed up, music and rallying cries blared in the background. Coach Keith Ross was watching over his team.
"This is the most eligible amount of kids that we’ve ever had," Ross, who enters his 15th year at Sumner, said. "It has increased every year I’ve been here."
Ross is excited about this group as well, not just because of the numbers, but because of the athleticism and speed on the field.
He said that even though there are four new offensive lineman, and a new sophomore quarterback (his son Luke Ross), this year’s goal remains the same.
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"Every year we want to make the playoffs," Ross said.
That goal will have to start with junior running back Connor Wedington. Last season Wedington rushed for over 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns and was named to the first team All-3A South Puget Sound League. This season he wants to improve those numbers.
"I want to rush for 2,000 to 2,500 yards," Wedington said. "But, the main goals are to help this team win and make the playoffs."
Wedington said he spent the majority of the summer in the weight room so that he could get stronger and faster. And it wasn’t just Wedington there.
"We had over 80 kids in the weight room daily," Ross said. "We actually had to split it up into two different periods so that everyone could workout."
Ross said that the team bought into the weight-room mentality, and his son, Luke Ross the sophomore quarterback agrees.
"We’re kind of a smaller team, so we want to get stronger," Luke said. "Those weight room days will help us win the fourth quarter."
Luke, meanwhile, feels confident about making his first varsity start for the Spartans. He did say that he’s a bit nervous, but also excited. Keith is on the same page.
"I’m not nervous for him because he’s my son," Keith said. "I’m nervous for him because he’s a sophomore making his first start at quarterback."
But with Wedington behind him and a new transfer from Bonney Lake, sophomore receiver Tre Weed and Josh Riley, a returning first-team all-league senior linebacker, on the defensive side of the ball, the Spartans might not have to be nervous.
"We have the talent to win the league championship and make the playoffs," Luke said. "We just have to stick together."
The News Tribune will visit 17 high school football practices in the 14 days leading up to the first Football Friday of the season, breaking down some of the teams, players and storylines entering the 2015-16 season.
The tour will include three schools from the 4A Narrows League, four teams from the 4A SPSL, two from the 3A Narrows League, two from the 3A SPSL, one from the 2A Evergreen Conference, two from the 2A SPSL, one from the 1A Evergreen, one from the 1A Nisqually and one from the 2B Pacific.
Teams will be revealed each day, starting with the first day of official practices Wednesday, Aug. 19.
TNT PRESEASON PRACTICE TOUR
Practice preview: South Sound’s four most illustrious 4A schools enter new eras
Aug. 19: Timberline Blazers
Aug. 22: Kentlake Falcons
Aug. 26: Black Hills Wolves
Aug. 28: Yelm Tornados
Aug. 29: Clover Park Warriors
Aug. 31: Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds
Sept. 1: Eatonville Cruisers
Sept. 2: Charles Wright Tarriers
Sept. 3: Sumner Spartans
LEAGUE FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
In-depth look at some of the top storylines, team-by-team breakdown, games to watch and predictions from the 4A Narrows, 4A SPSL, 3A Narrows, 3A SPSL, 2A SPSL, and 1A Nisqually, as well as capsules from other area small-school teams.
State football overview: Dual-threat QBs have Auburn Mountainview, Gig Habor thinking state
Preseason TNT All-State football team: Graham-Kapowsin’s Foster Sarell on of nation’s top 2017 recruits
3A Narrows: Is that Xavier Cooper? Or Wilson’s A.J. Ruffin?
2A Evergreen: Team capsules
1A Nisqually: Team capsules. Story Saturday.
Small schools: Team capsules