The Eldon Mustangs line up shoulder-to-shoulder under a hot sun and the shadow of their practice field's goalposts. A sharp whistle breaks through the light breeze and sets the entire football team in motion for the first of 10 110-yard sprints.

"It gives us a chance to really find out who is in condition, who is improving as we go along and lets us watch who might be struggling a little bit so we can keep an eye on them in practice," Eldon head coach Shannon Jolley explained.



The Eldon Mustangs line up shoulder-to-shoulder under a hot sun and the shadow of their practice field's goalposts. A sharp whistle breaks through the light breeze and sets the entire football team in motion for the first of 10 110-yard sprints.
"It gives us a chance to really find out who is in condition, who is improving as we go along and lets us watch who might be struggling a little bit so we can keep an eye on them in practice," Eldon head coach Shannon Jolley explained.
Every player on the roster runs the first six, 110-yard sprints. Skill position players are allowed to complete the run in 16 seconds. Linemen are asked to sprint the length of the field in 18 seconds. Coaches also time the period between each sprint and regulate recovery time.
"It simulates the time, not only that a football play takes, but it simulates the time in the huddle," Jolley said of the regimented conditioning drill.
After six sprints, players who don't make the 16 or 18 second deadline walk off the goal line and stand on the sideline. The fastest Mustangs are seemingly rewarded with more sprints. Many players who don't run fast enough for the cutoff appear disappointed that they won't be allowed to continue the conditioning drill.
Most high schoolers dread the thought of extended conditioning, but Jolley said his players showed up to training camp ready to compete for playing time.
"It's a way for the coaches to assess and get the kids mentally ready to get out of the huddle and understand what the tempo of the game will be," Jolley said.
After the 10th sprint, the Eldon team gathers for a water break and a pep talk in the north endzone. The coaching staff commends the players for their work ethic and their effort in the heat.
"It's overrated. It is so overrated," Jolley said of the high temperatures. The Eldon coaches encourage their players to drink plenty of water and overcome the mental block of hot temperatures at practice.
The Mustangs will need mental toughness in the 2010 season. Their losing streak sits at 21 games and dates back to October of 2007. For the second consecutive year, Eldon will rely on juniors and sophomores at several positions on the varsity level. Despite the list of challenges, Eldon appears optimistic about putting an improved team on the field, a team with a bigger playbook than last year's team.
"Our system is the same, but some of the limitations we had last year--hopefully we will be able to open it up a little bit on both sides of the ball and do some other things that will maybe give us a better chance to be successful," Jolley said.
 

Contact this reporter at rance.burger@lakesunonline.com