It was still dark outside when the Brook Hill Guard varsity football team marched its way back onto Young Field at Herrington Stadium for the first time this season, as the team held the second annual Brook Hill Midnight Football Practice event under the stars and lights at 12:05 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1.
“This is a really great event we have for our football program,” said Ryle. “Our athletes really love participating in it. There was definitely quite a lot of energy leading up to this practice – I could barely keep them inside of the boarding house until midnight struck. We’re all together as a team now, and we’re working towards the common goal of preparing for the new season.”
According to Ryle, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) allows coaches to work with players during the summer months, unlike the governing body for Texas public school athletics, the Universal Interscholastic League (UIL).
Towards the end of the summer, Ryle said there is a set “dead-period” between summer practices and the official start of the football season on August 1 annually, when teams can take to the field when the clock strikes midnight.
“For the past two years now, all of the players on the team move into one of the boarding houses on campus at 10:30 p.m.,” said Ryle. “At that time, we’re not allowed to talk anything about football. At midnight, I blow the whistle and yell for them to get to the field house to change and be ready on the field for practice in 10 minutes. It usually ends up looking like a scene filled with mass chaos, but they’re all pumped up and ready to go.”
In the beginning of the practice, Ryle and his coaching staff have players line up for conditioning-based exercises, which ensure the legs of the athletes will last throughout the first day.
“It’s the first day of practice, so we really want to make sure we’re in shape, and then focus on teaching the basics,” said Ryle. “We want to teach them the Guard way.”
As for the roster for Brook Hill this year, the team will look relatively new this year, with Ryle estimating a total of 27 new faces on the team, including athletes new to the school and those who were rising players, which is certainly to make an impact on the team this season.
“Having so many new faces will definitely be something we have to get used to quickly,” said Ryle. “We have to do a great job of becoming a team, which is key. I believe we have the talent to do some great things on the field this season, but we have to play as a team and not as individuals. Everything we do, whether it’s how we condition or even how we clean the locker room, we want to strive for excellence this year. If we do so, we hope that the team will end up back in the playoffs and in the hunt for the State Championship this season.”
In the sport of football, the district lines were redrawn by TAPPS at the beginning of the year. The Brook Hill Guard varsity football team will continue to face familiar district opponents in Class 5A Division 2 11-man football, including the Cedar Hill Trinity Christian, Dallas Christian, Bishop T.K. Gorman, and Grace Community, with the addition of McKinney Christian
“This new district is still not a cakewalk for our program,” said Ryle. “Cedar Hill Trinity Christian ended up being the State Champion last year, so they’ll be really tough, as well as Dallas Christian, who is always a very good football team. Top to bottom, our new district is a very competitive district as a whole. A lot of teams may have games that are considered to be ‘lull games,’ but we don’t have that in our district. Our athletes have to be ready to play. We’re hoping that our preseason schedule will help us to get ready for the challenges that district holds for us.”
The team will begin the 2018 campaign by participating in its lone scrimmage event against the Grapeland Sandies Friday, Aug. 17, at the Guard’s home field, Young Field at Herrington Stadium.
Officially kicking off the season, the Guard will start the new schedule on the road, traveling to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to take on the Southwest Christian Eagles Friday, Aug. 31.
For the second week, Brook Hill will return to the friendly confines of their home field to host the fourth annual Brook Hill American Warrior Bowl Classic contest Friday, Sept. 7, with this year’s opponent being the John Paul II Cardinals from Plano.
The annual Warrior Bowl game holds a special place in Ryle’s heart, having served as a member of the Illinois National Guard for almost a decade. During his time with the Illinois National Guard, Ryle was deployed twice to Iraq, serving as a team recon leader during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005, as well as a force protection mission leader in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002.
“The Warrior Bowl is an unbelievable event we host each year and we’re definitely looking forward to it this year,” said Ryle. “Although it’s happening in week two instead of the first week of the season as it has been in the past, it will be a big event and we hope the community will come out for it. I hope we’ll be able to salute all of our veterans for the sacrifices they’ve made for our freedom and honor those who deserve it.”
The Guard will then hit the road once again, traveling to take on the Huntington Red Devils in week three Friday, Sept. 14. Brook Hill will end the pre-district schedule with two home contests, with the first scheduled for Friday, Sept. 21 against the Trinity Christian Academy (Willow Park) Eagles, and the second slated from Saturday, Sept. 29 against the Albany Lions.
Afterwards, the Guard will observe the annual bye week on Friday, Oct. 5 before jumping into TAPPS Class 5A Division 2 play, starting with a road game Friday, Oct. 12 against the Dallas Christian Chargers.
The first district home game for Brook Hill will be when one of the team’s nearby rivals comes to town, as the Guard is scheduled to take on the Grace Community Cougars Friday, Oct. 19, at Herrington Stadium.
Weeks three and four during district play will feature road games for Ryle and the Guard, traveling first to face off against the McKinney Christian Academy Mustangs Friday, Oct. 26, then going the short distance for a gridiron matchup against another rival, the Bishop T.K. Gorman Crusaders Friday, Nov. 2.
The final regular season district bout for Brook Hill in the 2018 season will be at home, as the team will host Senior Night against the Cedar Hill Trinity Christian Tigers Friday, Nov. 9.
The team ended its 2017 campaign with an overall record of 3-6, 1-4 in district play, missing the cut for the TAPPS playoffs.
In terms of the 2018 season, Ryle said he was pleased to see the effort given by his players during the midnight practice event, but said that hard work must continue in order to gain a spot on the Guard’s depth chart.
“There’s absolutely been some great effort already shown out here,” said Ryle. “During the first practice, they always have a lot of energy just from the build-up to today. There’s going to be a lot of competition at a number of different positions this year, so we’re going to need several of these guys to step up – you can’t just show up and win a job.”