At about 11:30 p.m. Friday night AC/DC’s For Those About To Rock was blaring from a portable speaker outside the Kenneth Rippy Field House.
After wrapping up an hour of special teams work in shoulder pads and helmets, the Bearcat football team was on its collective way into the field house to put on practice pants.
Arkansas Activities Association rules require three practices in helmets and shorts and two more so-called thud practices in helmets and pads, before players can have full contact.
While the players dressed then waited on midnight to get a full contact practice started a steady stream of cars was making their way along Eighth Street and DJ George Drive.
By the time practice began there were almost 100 parents, siblings, classmates and assorted other fans lining the practice field to see the first full contact practice for the defending Class 3A state champions.
A couple of things were completely obvious during the practice.
First was it was miserably humid to the point the playing field was drenched with dew.
Second, according to head coach Scott Hyatt, it was easy to see who was more comfortable in full pads.
“I thought overall it was ok,” Hyatt said of the first full contact practice. “Guys with experience showed it and the ones that didn’t showed it. We have a lot of work to do.”
Entering his 13th season as the head coach of the program, Hyatt and his staff have a roster of 34 players, which is already down one from the start of practice.
Senior Ethan Pirraglia, who has already collected two Division II scholarship offers, is the top returning offensive lineman and has Dominic Helms up front as well. Largely, Pirraglia was dominant Friday.
Other leaders back on offense include Robertson, who ran for exactly 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns, as well as quarterback Evan Schlinker, who is 15-0 as a starter and threw for a school record 14 touchdowns with 570 yards in 2018.
Anthony McKesson is a tight end in some formations and Cam Brasher takes over at fullback. Brasher is twice the team’s leading tackler. The linebacker had 33 solo and 64 assisted tackles last year, with 7.5 tackles for a loss, to go along with three pass break-ups and two interceptions.
Seniors Cort Mizell, McKesson, Robertson and Gabe Fennell are starters returning and Hunter Pence, another senior, got a lot of playing time a year ago.
Next up for the Bearcats is the annual Purple-Gold scrimmage and “games” with the little league teams on Friday, Aug. 16. The games will be held on the Bearcat Stadium turf this year.
Seventh grade and junior high teams will hold intrasquad scrimmages starting at 6 with the senior high taking on the youngsters at about 7, all depending upon heat indexes.
The following week the Bearcats will play a scrimmage game at Dardanelle, on Aug. 22 and the season opener will be at Clarksville on Aug. 30.
The Bearcats were picked first in the league by Conference 3A-1 coaches.