On a recent Friday evening, 16 players turned out at Burghardt Stadium to work on agility and other conditioning drills.
Molalla High Schools Coop Early is serious about summer football workouts.
When the schedule calls for players to show up at Burghardt Stadium at 6 p.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday for voluntary conditioning drills, Early -- a 6-foot, 240-pound senior lineman -- is usually among the first to arrive and the last to leave.
The number of others who show up fluctuates.
On the third Friday in July, there were 16 players on the field, including Early. He considered the turnout decent.
These are the kids who want to put in extra work and like to work, Early said. Everyone thats here is going to get more looks and theyre going to get a better chance to play, because the coaches can already see what they have.
So, the more youre out here, the more the coaches are going to look and the more playing time youre likely to get.
As Early spoke, a summer league baseball game was underway on the adjacent field, and at least four of the players there are expected to turn out for football this fall.
Add those players to the workout mix, and the Indians are looking at a solid core group of about 20 players a number that is expected to double before the OSAAs official Aug. 18 start of fall sports practices.
This week is the OSAAs Moratorium Week, when there is to be no contact between coaches and athletes or any use of high school athletic facilities.
Once the moratorium ends Sunday, most fall sports teams will increase their off-season training activities (OTAs), essentially moving the start of fall practice up two weeks to this coming Monday.
You dont just roll out the ball Aug. 18 and say, Lets get after it. Were going to be good. Youve got to work just like everybody else is working, said Molalla coach Kaleb Mitchell, who is beginning his seventh season with the Indians and sixth as head coach.
We still call them OTAs, but its essentially the start of practice statewide. You cant make it mandatory, you cant call it practice, but you have to call it something.
From Aug. 4 on, well be going. Well start to install everything, so that when we actually get to put the pads on, were not still on the walk-through stage.
Running back Isaiah Bilbrey and wide receiver Austin Salley return after earning first-team, all-Tri-Valley Conference honors last season on a junior-dominated team that finished 4-5 and missed the Class 4A state playoffs for the second consecutive season.
I have a really good feeling about this fall, especially with the way the Class 4A has been reorganized with the new divisions, Mitchell said. The teams that have led the way in the past are all 5A now, so the conference race should be wide open and should include us, if we can get our heads on straight.
Mitchell said this group reminds him of Molallas playoff teams from 2006 and 2011.
The quality that those kids had was that when bad things happened, they didnt drop their heads to extreme levels, Mitchell said. I think I have another squad now with tough-minded kids. If they can get past that first layer of adversity and not have it blow their minds and just play on, well be fine.
Early agreed that the attitude appears to have improved from a year ago.
Last year, we had a lot of ups and downs, but we also had people with bad attitudes who are no longer here, Early said. This year, I dont see any bad attitudes. This year should be good.
I feel were going to be in better condition, too. People on this team want to work harder than last year. We have a lot of skill positions, because people want the ball. Thats how people are. But were slowly developing more linemen and I think well be OK.
The Tri-Valley Conference has changed with the addition of the Corbett Cardinals and the Crook County Cowboys of Prineville, plus the departure of La Salle Prep to the Class 5A Northwest Oregon Conference and North Marion to the Class 4A Oregon West Conference.
Molalla will join Crook County and Corbett on Aug. 29 for a pre-season jamboree at Cottage Grove High School before opening the regular season Sept. 5 with a non-conference road game against Class 5A The Dalles-Wahtonka of the Columbia River Conference.