MUSKEGO, Wis. - It is "game on" for high school football programs in southeast Wisconsin as teams hit the practice field for the first time this year.
"It was just fun to be back together. We tell the kids that they kind of have two families. One is there home and the other is their football team. It was nice to be with our second family today," said Kenneth Krause, Muskego football coach.
"I am excited. I know everybody is going to be excited. There will be a lot of emotions when the games start, but we will be ready," said John Wesling, a New Berlin Eisenhower senior.
But the sights and sounds of the game are a little different this year.
"Everybody is pretty much staying home on the weekends and not staying at their buddy's home. We are doing it for our program and the following players after," said Kyle Mason, a Muskego senior.
For the two-time defending state champion Muskego Warriors, they are prepared for an opponent who is not on their schedule -- the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I feel like there are still things to improve on, but I think we did pretty good for the first day of this happening," said Brian Radish, a Muskego senior.
The Muskego staff is also wiping down footballs after each session. Players are coming in different shifts to practice -- and they are all using multiple locker rooms so athletes can all be six feet apart.
"We talk to our kids through our leadership program and they definitely have bought in and doing a great job of not only encouraging themselves but their teammates to make good choices," Krause said.
With a smaller number of kids at the D3 level, social distancing has been a little easier to do for Matt Kern's New Berlin Eisenhower squad.
"It is, and typically we would have our sophomore class working with us at the varsity level. But this year, we are having the majority play with our JVs -- to spread groups out," Kern said.
In less than three weeks, the teams will be playing their first game under the lights. But Friday nights will look different considering the number of fans, if any, will be allowed.
"None of us have ever played without band, without students. So I think it will be a little different," Kern said.
Entering such a unique year, optimism is key.
"We are grateful to be out here today. First practice. And then that first game is gonna be great. We can't think about the future if it hasn't happened yet," Radish said.