PUNXSUTAWNEY — After a long summer off, the fall sports programs are getting back into the swing of things, as the 2013-2014 school year is just around the corner. After a three-day conditioning period, as brought into effect by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, the Punxsutawney Chucks hit the field Monday for their first official practice of the season.
Head Coach Alan Nichol, said that the new rules of conditioning changed the approach he took to the first day of practice. Because of the time last week, the Chucks were able to get right into things Monday.
"We're hitting the ground running pretty well today. We took a lot of that time last week to get running in, but to also work some of the bugs out," Nichol said. "Today, I think we are basically starting to get more physical."
While Nichol and his staff are just starting off with the basics the first few days of practice, he said the staff wanted to have the hitting drills in order to stress the importance of the defensive side of the ball this season.
Last year, the Chucks (5-6) had five interceptions and five sacks. Nichol wants his team to get after the ball more this year on the defensive side.
"We did a little bit of hitting in the morning for defense, and we feel we can improve a lot this year defensively over last year," Nichol said. "One of the things that we emphasized going into this year was defense and getting to the ball."
After the defensive and special teams drills, the Chucks' offense took the field. With a three-man quarterback battle, Nichol wants the team to focus on execution during the first few days of practice.
"We are going after offensive execution. We always want to work on the short passing game," Nichol said. "If you can run the ball and throw the ball short, it opens up the field for the long ball. Those are the kind of things we are working on for the first few days."
Despite the warm temperature and offseason rust that one could expect, the Chucks came out energized and ready to go.
"They were very spirited in the morning when we went with our defensive session. We have a lot of guys that have a lot of experience, that really revved it up pretty good in our team period," Nichol said. "We ran a pursuit drill at the end of practice, and a lot of the guys are in really good condition. They worked and ran hard throughout the session. I'm very pleased with the effort. It was a very spirited defensive session."
The Chucks will once again take the field today in preparation for their scrimmage Saturday against Clearfield High School.