Offseason football in Colorado Springs isn't what it used to be. The hope is that as a result, postseason football won't be the same, either.
Coaches are taking voluntary practices to the limit of the rules, utilizing every bit of their allotted contact time, organizing seven-on-seven games designed to solidify passing routes and many programs are welcoming as many as 80 players to their daily weight-lifting sessions.
"It’s come to the point where you can’t slack in the summer time," Falcon coach Trevor Hudson said. "You find a school that doesn’t do the work in the summer, you’ll find a school that’s going to have a losing season."
Losing, in general, is getting a bit old for local teams at the highest level. Pine Creek played for a 4A title last year, the first time an area 5A or 4A team had advanced that far since 1998. The gap between the Pikes Peak region and the rest of the state isn't going to close during the season, but rather in the early morning and evening hours of June and July.
"We’ve got some great head coaches around here who are starting to turn the tide," Hudson said. "If it just keeps going in that direction, I think it’s only a matter of time before we take it over."
Falcon thinks it's on the verge of such a breakthrough. With speedy senior tailback Keenan Britton fully recovered from a knee injury suffered as a sophomore, physical freak Kalen Ballage set to emerge as one of the state's most gifted athletes and a host of weapons like receiver Brodie Hicks, the Falcons are at the front of the pack of potential contenders.
But it's more than talent. The team also went to a camp at Boise State, where it competed against teams from Alabama and California and it meets regularly for weights, practices and seven-on-seven.
"The practices get a little hectic because its five times a week, twice a day," Britton said. "But when you’re excited as me, you don’t mind. "
The year-round schedule has turned coaching into a monstrous commitment. Hudson works eight hours a day as a nuclear medicine tech at the Air Force Academy, then heads to Falcon for football. His three young kids, his church and everything else has to fill in the time around his two jobs.
"When I signed up for the head coaching job, I knew it was going to be as intense as I made it out to be," Hudson said. "What I didn’t know was how long it would take for the kids to feed off the intensity. Last year was so rushed. We had people with one leg on the bandwagon, one leg holding off just for security."
Perhaps that's the key for teams all over the city, getting their players to fully buy into to the program. That seems to be the way of things for Pine Creek, which is undeniably the football king in the area, going 71-13 under Todd Miller over the past seven years, including last year's runner-up finish.
"I think he’s set a standard," Hudson set of Miller, whose Eagles thrashed Falcon 52-9 last season. "He’s set a standard of, if you want to be good, this is what you have to do. I can tell you that anybody who has Pine Creek on the schedule knows when they play them, what the date is, what time it is and what you’ve got to do."