PUNXSUTAWNEY — With the temperatures cooling a bit over the past several days, and the NFL preseason kicking off this past weekend, thoughts of fall are beginning to feel a bit more realistic.
With autumn comes the busiest of sports seasons for the Punxsutawney Area High School's athletic department.
Seven different sports are represented on the fall sports calendar, keeping everyone in the athletic department on their toes.
The activity is welcomed after a full summer of preparations went into planning the schedules for Punxsutawney Athletic Director Bill Vassallo and his staff.
Due to rules about practice time allowed over the summer, today is the first day that the sports are officially allowed to begin practice, and each team is scheduled to do so.
Some of the programs offer optional summer practices, like football's seven-on-seven drills.
The football players received their equipment last week, and several players could be seen running drills throughout the week, but full-gear official practices begin today.
The varsity football program will be led this season by Alan Nichol, who led the team to an undefeated regular season last year.
Football has the most elaborate practice schedule, with four different divisions: Varsity, junior varsity, ninth grade and seventh/eighth grade.
Practices, known as "two-a-days," have both morning and afternoon sessions, and every minute is valuable with just three weeks of practice before the regular season schedule opens with a game at DuBois Sept. 2. The other divisions begin their games in mid-September.
Volleyball practice also begins today, under first-year coach Lisa Kephart. The volleyball schedule opens with a tournament at Slippery Rock Sept. 3.
Boys' and girls' golf have a shorter turn-around before their regular season begins.
The boys, coached by Josh Conrad, begin practice this morning with two days of tryouts, and their season begins Friday with a home tournament against Redbank.
The girls, coached by Katie Irwin, begin their season next Monday at the Bolton tournament in State College and will host their first home tournament Aug. 25.
Girls" tennis is coached by Rose Graffius. The tennis players begin practice this morning and open their season on the road against DuBois Aug. 24.
Boys' soccer is led by coach Phil Shenkle and will begin practice this afternoon. Girls' soccer will be coached by Kevin Hughes this season, and practice begins this morning.
The boys will open their season Sept. 6 against DuBois Central at home.
The girls kick off their season by hosting their own tournament Sept. 3.
Boys' and girls' cross country, coached by John Smith and George Wehrle respectively, begin their official practices today as well.
The boys will open their season at the Big Valley Invitational Sept. 3, and the girls will open their season with a meet Sept. 6 at Elk County. The girls will travel to an invitational of their own Oct. 1 at Penn State.
The seventh and eighth grade girls' basketball, coached by Darrin Kriebel and Mike Carlson respectively, will practice this morning and begin their seasons with away games against Curwensville Sept. 6.
The cheerleaders, who bring energy and excitement to many sporting events year round, also begin their practices this morning. They will be coached this season by Julie Baun.
For more information on each sport and preseason previews, be sure to check out the sports pages of The Spirit over the next few weeks.