IOWA CITY—Marv Cook strolled the sidelines of the Iowa City Regina football practice field late Monday afternoon with a whistle around his neck.
He was coaching his two-time defending state championship football team’s first day of practice. It’s a long way to go until the Regals can defend those titles, but Cook said the players are already focusing on it.
“I’m not defending it, the kids are,” Cook said. “I haven’t played a down of high school football in 20 years.”
However, those state titles will be defended from a different class this season as Regina moves from 2A to 1A. The Regals won both championships in class 2A.
Senior quarterback Mark Ward said he and his teammates still feel some pressure even with the class change.
“It’s the best kind of pressure you can have, though,” Ward said. “The whole team kind of feels it in the back of our heads. You just got to relish in it and make the best of it.”
Though the Regals are going to a lower classification, it is still an obstacle, Cook said. Regina has a tough schedule, with the powerhouse Solon and rival West Branch in its first three weeks of the season.
“As a football player that’s what you want, to be tested and see how good you are,” Cook said.
Cook looks forward to this year’s squad as he already sees the signs of an early identity, he said.
“Just from this morning’s practice, we know we got a lot of skill guys, especially a lot of receivers and a ton of depth there,” Cook said. “We have to develop our linemen that haven’t had a lot of game experience and make sure they are ready to go when the lights come on.”
Leadership has started to unfold well, according to Ward. The seniors were vocal in the opening parts of Monday afternoon’s practice, making sure the underclassmen were ready to go.
The practices need to be intense to repeat the championships, Cook said.
“Practice hard and practice fast,” Cook said. “We’ve got to make sure we are emulating game situations in a controlled environment. Hopefully, when they step on the field on a Friday, they’ve prepared hard enough in these first three weeks to be ready.”