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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • 'Iron strengthens iron': Pioneers forging ahead on the grid and in the heat

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  • As Leavenworth High School football players headed to the Pioneer Field sideline Tuesday night for a water break, a few stayed back and watched.
    After an outside run led to a defensive strip of the ball, the running back who let it loose was holding the football while performing up-downs as a coach stood over him.
    Though just the second day of practice, head coach Mark Littrell said practice is up-tempo, and competition is fierce.
    Senior quarterback Landry Hodges, who threw for 871 yards and six touchdowns last season, said position battles have marked the first few days of practice.
    "We had a new quarterback move in," Hodges said. "A lot of guys on the line, they're still getting evaluated the first couple days, so there's some position battles there. But, we all know we're all one team, it's nothing heated or anything."
    Heat has played a factor as far as temperatures, though.
    As the Pioneers practiced Tuesday night, the temp hovered around 90 degrees, and it's only supposed to get hotter this week.
    The Pioneers practice in full pads starting Thursday, with a projected high of 96 degrees. Since the team couldn't practice until Monday, a week after fall semester began, the Pioneers have been in two-a-day practices before and after school.
    With morning practices beginning at 6 a.m., Littrell said the team is able to have more physical practices rather than in the late afternoon heat.
    "I think they like it," Littrell said. "That way we can get a lot of things done in the morning, it's cooler. Then we can come back out in the afternoon and just focus on refinement-type things."
    Without pads, refinement is crucial for the Pioneers, Littrell said.
    Kansas State High School Activities Association rules dictate teams can't start padded practices until Thursday.
    Hodges said anticipation is high as the team continues walk-throughs, light contact drills and team workouts.
    "It's a lot of reviewing plays, seeing who really wants to be here," Hodges said. "Once we put the pads on, we're really just ready to go."
    Before the Pioneers ended their second practice of the day Tuesday night, Littrell reminded them of the importance of high-level competition in all positions.
    He urged his players, first-team and scout team alike, that they're all critical in helping themselves, each other and the team get better. He left them with a few final words.
    "Iron strengthens iron," he said. "Do you know what that means?"

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