James Morrison hiked his practice jersey up above his midsection after finishing a drill. He inched it up a little higher after the next one. The sun was starting to take its toll on the lineman.
Cretin-Derham Hall was only 30 minutes into its initial two-hour football practice of the season Monday afternoon as the temperatures sat in the mid-80s at Wingerd Field at the St. Paul high school.
"It's a little hot, but it will do," said Morrison, a 6-6, 315-pound senior who is one of the Raiders' returning starters. "I'm looking forward to a really exciting year."
The first three players strolled onto the turf field 25 minutes before the 3 p.m. start time. The remainder followed in groups of various sizes, with one major exception: senior Tre Holloman, a defensive back who is a Division I football prospect and who already has agreed to play basketball for Michigan State. He will miss the first few days of camp because of a family commitment.
The others have work to do.
"Come on, fellas," Raiders assistant coach Tom Johnson yelled. "We have to get all our toys out [of the storage shed]. We need them all."
Coach Chuck Miesbauer is energized and enthusiastic as he begins his third season at the helm of the program.
"I am a little more juiced up than I normally am," Miesbauer said. "The first day is always fun."
Morrison would like to see the storied program return to elite status. The Raiders made 22 state tournament appearances from 1988-2011, winning two titles and finishing second five times.
Lately it has been different. The Raiders lost their final five games in 2019 and went 1-6 last season.
"We won our first four games two years ago and have been losing ever since," Morrison said. "We want to bring Cretin-Derham Hall football back to where it was."
A few minutes later, the boisterous Johnson was heard clearly from sideline to sideline, end zone to end zone.
"Details matter," he exclaimed. "It's the difference between playing in November or turning your gear in in October."