The cool, damp Monday morning certainly felt like the end of summer. And the football helmets on area high school players as they began practice for the 2014 season confirmed it.
Players reported Monday for the first official day of football practice in preparation for their season openers on Friday, Aug. 29.
But practices this preseason will have a whole different look to them.
There are new constraints for practices, limiting the amount of time teams can practice. And there is a new procedure for equipment, with only helmets the first two days, then adding shoulder pads the following three days, with no full equipment permitted in practice until this Saturday.
These new guidelines were initiated by the Illinois High School Association in the hopes that a gradual adjustment period would help limit injuries -- especially concussions, which have put the sport under the microscope recently.
"I don't mind it," said Barrington coach Joe Sanchez, as he finished up a Day 1 practice with the 93 players on his roster. "I think it is better than what we used to do. I remember the old days when we went from no equipment for three days to full pads. That was kind of extreme. We get to be in full pads on Saturday and that's what the coaches and the kids get to look forward to."
At Prospect, coach Mike Sebestyen completed his practice for the 46 varsity players on his roster. Each player had a new Guardian cap, which is a padded cap that covers the outside of the football helmet.
The caps, which were purchased by Prospect's Booster Club, are designed to reduce impact on the helmets. Prospect will use them just for practice since they are not approved as of yet for game use.
"We researched and talked to our parent group," Sebestyen said. "If it is going to help even in some small fashion to reduce some of the contact and impact, why wouldn't we want to use them?"
Hersey's new head coach Joe Pardun gave each of his players a leather lariat that is tied around each player's neck. It is to symbolize the commitment each player has to the team and to remind them to make good decisions off the field.
"I like it," said Cole Monckton, who is a Hersey wide receiver and a defensive back. "It is kind of to keep us out of bad situations and to always remember the team before anything else."
Hersey's Joe Caputo, who was an outside linebacker last year and will start there as well as at quarterback for the Huskies, was excited to be back on the practice field.
"We want to be building off of the things we did this past summer," Caputo said. "We are coming off a big year last year, so we are definitely looking to improve."
Hersey linebacker and running back Chase Bandolik said he barely got any sleep Sunday night in anticipation of practice Monday morning.
"I wasn't nervous, but I was excited," Bandolik said. "I am definitely ready to get going. I feel like I am in the best shape of my life right now and can't wait to start playing."
Pardun was the defensive coordinator for the last eight years before taking over as head coach this year. Dragan Teonic, who guided the Huskies to a share of the Mid-Suburban East title last fall, has stepped in as Larkin's head coach.
Pardun couldn't wait to get practice started up again.
"I really missed the kids," Pardun said. "We spent most of the summer together and we have had the last two weeks off, so it was great to see all of them this morning.
"I don't expect anything to be much different today -- except that I am the head coach. "