Spudders waste no time getting on the field on the first day of high school football practice
RIDGEFIELD — The scoreboard clock ticked down the minutes, then the seconds.
As soon as the board showed all zeroes, there were some shouts as players lined up to start their warmups.
Midnight in Ridgefield.
Happy New Year from the Spudders.
“We absolutely love it,” Ridgefield senior Matthew Lewis said. “The energy is crazy here. It’s so fun. Nothing better than starting at midnight, playing some football.”
Just to be safe, Ridgefield coach Scott Rice started practice at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 18, the first day of high school football practice in the state.
“Our tagline this year is urgency,” Rice said of his program.
In other words, he said, the Spudders could not wait to get going, and there is no need to wait if you start one minute into the day.
“We’re excited about this team. We have 70 guys cleared, ready to play,” Rice said. “Let’s rock n roll. We’re excited to play real football again. This is great.”
Ridgefield’s first midnight madness football practice was in 2018. Rice’s first year as head coach was 2019.
“I probably would have said, ‘Let’s do it for a year and then be done with it.’ But the guys were like, ‘Absolutely not. It’s our thing,’” Rice said. “I could kill it, but a lot of guys would be upset about it.”
To be fair, not everyone loves midnight practice at Ridgefield High School. Over the years, more housing has been built near the stadium. Homeowners are not used to the lights on at midnight, whistles sounding, and music from the speakers. (The team did not use the stadium speakers for its music this year.) The school has, in the past, reached out to let folks know it is a once-a-year thing.
In the end, Ridgefield High School wants to do this for the athletes.
“Midnight madness is big,” Lewis said. “It’s probably the most hyped day of the year until Game 1.”
Lewis was a freshman when midnight practice started at Ridgefield.
“It was most definitely weird,” Lewis said. “I didn’t really know what to expect out of it. We didn’t know if it was going to be super-duper cool. It wasn’t as hyped as it is now. It was just thrown out there at us.”
Now a senior, Lewis said midnight practice to open the season has, indeed, become a tradition.
Parents are getting involved, too. There were a handful in the stands, watching practice.
Kamella O’Neil’s son Clyde Stephens is a freshman on the team.
“I think it’s great they are out here under the lights, and doing all of this stuff as a team,” O’Neil said. “It’s a neat way for them to all come together and start their season.”
While it gives the chance for something different, and there is a buzz around it, midnight practice is real practice. It counts for players as they get in the necessary practice days to be eligible to play. Coaches were giving instructions, installing new systems and plays.
The real deal.
For the Spudders just after midnight, and for other teams across the county, across the state, football players will be participating in their first practices of the season.
Pretty much, they will be working on a holiday.
Happy New Year to high school football players in Washington.