RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It’s 5:30 a.m. and the football field at Saint Augustine’s is packed with Falcons. It doesn’t matter the sun doesn’t come up for another 90 minutes. Two enormous mobile light stands illuminate the end zones where groups of players work on pass-catching drills.
Towards the middle of the field where the light isn’t as strong, players work on technique. What’s this all about? The short answer is it’s about getting better.
“We’re getting after it early,” said linebacker Joe Harris. “The sun isn’t even out yet. We have the lights on, we have the new coaching staff, new environment, new energy.”
The early mornings help in two ways. First off, It keeps the players from doing drills in the hottest part of the day, which allows more reps and top speed and better practices. It’s also been proven you are more focused and get more done in the first 4 hours you’re awake than at any other time during your day. The second thing it does is keep players safe. In order to get up at 4:30 a.m. and be on the field by 5 a.m., you need to be in bed at 8:30 p.m. The early bedtime keeps players off the yard. They are away from large groups of people where COVID-19 might be present and, not that they would ever go looking for it, out of trouble.
“When we get up, there are kids that are just now going to sleep because they have been doing stuff all night,” said center Zachary Barco. “We are getting up and getting our day started and being the most productive people on campus.”
This will be the first season in over a year for the Falcons. COVID-19 stopped the 2020 campaign and the coaching debut of David Bowser. What he’s really looking for from his offense is balance. Bowser wants options when it comes to moving the football, and options are just what he has at the most essential position on the field.
“Our offensive line is going to be very young, with the exception of Zach Barco who has started here before,” Bowser said. “The quarterback situation has turned out better than we thought. We have four guys competing for the position.”
“They are probably the first position group to get out here and get their work in at like 4:15 in the morning. I mean, they are all out here super early,” Barco added. “Protecting each one of them, having them make the play calls and adjustments, I 100 percent trust every single one of them.”
The defensive side of the football is a bit more complicated. There are more returning players, but they’re learning a new system. Luckily, guys like assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Stephen Tate, defensive ends coach Antonio Williams, defensive tackles coach Markus Crutchfield, and Alex Woods, who oversees the cornerbacks, are perfectly suited to explain the adjustments.
“The coaches we have now are young, but they are old-minded, I would say,” Harris said. “They played the game forever, just like everybody else, and they are fresh out the game so they know how to teach differently.”
“Joe Harris has done an outstanding job of stepping up to be a leader Tyree Humes, and Demetrius Fitzgerald on the front line and Marcus Davis have done a good job,” Bowser said. “The defense, the main thing with them is tweaking maybe what they have been used to.”
A new season, new staff, and a new way of doing things have a positive atmosphere surrounding the team that is almost palpable.
“I’m not going to lie, this is the best energy at Saint Augustine’s since I’ve been here,” Harris said. “We have the student leaders after it and we have (SID Anthony Jeffries). Mr. Jeffries with the media, he is after it. We have a countdown for pictures and all that, so you’re really focused in to each season not just football but volleyball, too. There will be a bus to away games so we will get that home-field environment.”