A trickle of sweat slid down the side of Zach Oles' face Monday morning as he and his Palatine High School teammates took the field for the first day of football practice. It was a far cry from when Oles and his mates took the field for the final time last season, back in November.
"Today is pretty nice," Oles said. "It is a little cooler than we have had some summer days. But any day we can get on this field, it is a great day."
It was 25 degrees at kickoff for that semifinal game with host Palatine and Loyola in the Class 8A semifinals. A snowstorm had dumped more than a foot a snow on the field, and staff and volunteers piled it up 8-10 feet high in the end zones.
Palatine fell a bit short with their 24-22 loss to Loyola. But the Pirates, like all the other area teams, are looking to come in from the cold with the start of the 2017 campaign.
"It is great to be back out here today," Palatine coach Rick Splitt said. "Last time we were here it was snow cover all over.
"It is nice and quiet out here and a good time to get back to work."
Splitt had 62 players reporting before 7 a.m. Monday as the Pirates eagerly began their workouts in preparation for their season opener on Friday, Aug. 26 at Stevenson.
"It is very exciting to get back out here, especially after what we did last season," Dylan Tapia said. "It just gets us more excited to see what we can do this season."
Although he is a senior, this is the first opening day for Jack Grochowski. The wide receiver missed the first part of last season because of an injury, but came on strong down the stretch for the Pirates.
"Obviously this is a lot different for me," Grochowski said. "It wasn't too bad getting up so early. I tried to motivate myself by listening to some music."
Majetete Balanganayi said that he is ready for opening night.
"It is so exciting to put that summer work behind us," Balanganayi said. "We just want to get ready for that Week 1 game with Stevenson."
Palatine is one of the 15 Northwest suburban Cook County teams that took the field Monday as the boys of fall say goodbye to summer. Also saying goodbye is Christian Liberty Academy's football team, which will not compete this year due to low numbers.
Over at Rolling Meadows, coach Matt Mishler welcomed 62 players to an early morning practice.
"It is always great to be out here in the first day" Mishler said. "There are lots of things going on and kids are not quite in the right spots. But that is to be expected and we can't wait to get things going."
Quarterback Asher O'Hara says execution will be key to the Mustangs' season.
"The season starts today, and we just need to execute," O'Hara said. "We worked out all summer long as a team and I worked out on my throwing and my footwork."
The Mustangs' Kevin Haltman went to bed earlier than usual Sunday in preparation of his team's first practice.
"It all starts in day one," Haltman said. "We are looking forward to bringing a lot of energy to the whole season."
Kevin Lacosse of Rolling Meadows said that his team had already adjusted to earlier morning practices.
"At the beginning of this summer we were later in the morning," Lacosse said. "But we started transitioning to the earlier time."
Nick Delporte said the start of the season has him and him Meadows' teammates focusing on their opening game against St. Viator.
"We are just looking to go out and have some fun this year," Delaporte said. "We have been going very hard already, so it won't be hard for us to adjust now that the season has officially begun."