WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Monday marked the official start of high school football practice all across the state. Some schools got an early start by hitting the field Monday morning.
Last year the New Hanover Wildcats got a taste of the big time. They made it all the way to the Eastern 4-A title game. It's as close as you can get to the state finals. 31 players are gone from that squad, including 12 who will be playing college football this fall.
This year's Wildcat squad will be young with only 15 seniors. All together there were 120 players at the first official practice Monday morning, but everyone knows it's not the first practice. Almost every high school team works out in the summer
"Last week we had a little training camp," New Hanover coach Kevin Motsinger said. "The kids have been lifting twice a week, sometimes three. We go skill development twice a week. So most of them are getting lifts in and skill development all summer long."
The Wildcats have not been able to use their field house for more than a year. The renovation project will be finished soon.
"It'll definitely be before the end of this week," Motsinger said. "Right now they're finishing up the lockers and getting them in."
The Ashley High School football team also hit the field early Monday morning. Jason Tindal's back for his second season as the Screaming Eagles' head coach. Compared to last season Ashley is younger, stronger and more committed.
"We can't get caught up in the product as much as the process," Tindal said. "It's a long season. It's a grind on the players and on the coaches, and we're so young with only four returning starters that we've got to take our pacifiers out and get rid of the child seats to cut our teeth and eat on the big boys plates."
The Cape Fear region has three new head football coaches this year. In Whiteville Baxter Morris is now the head coach replacing Bob Lewis. Toby Kasell is the new coach at East Columbus replacing Travis Connor. Pat Byrd is the new head coach at West Bladen taking over for Raymond Marlowe, who is now retired.
We'll highlight more schools tonight on WWAY NewsChannel 3 at 11. In fact our sports department will cover every varsity team in the Cape Fear region in the coming days.