Calistoga football first day of practice

The Calistoga Wildcats football team huddle up at the end of their first official practice of the season on Monday at Calistoga High School. The Wildcats' first game of the season is Aug. 30 at Woodside Priory. 

The dog days of summer are in full swing.

Temperatures are high, the days are getting shorter, and kids are clinging to the last weeks of their summer vacations.

But the inevitable changing of the seasons brings with it new beginnings.

The new football season is nearly upon us, evident enough by the 17 or so young men who showed up to the first official practice of the year at Calistoga High on Monday.

“We got a lot accomplished on the first day,” said second-year head coach Jim Klaczak.

The Wildcats will practice for the next three weeks in preparation for their season opener at Woodside Priory in Portola Valley on Aug. 30. These following weeks will be crucial for the team, which is considering its increase in numbers from last season is due to a large influx of underclassmen coming out.

The Wildcats played most of last season with fewer than 15 players, but Klaczak projects a team that could be as large as 22 or 23 this fall, if everything breaks right.

“These first practices these first three days are all about introducing our system because of all the young kids,” Klaczak said. “So we’re introducing the way we practice, the speed we practice, the little things, how we stretch, how we line up, group work, where you go, what you do. … That’s what we want to do, so that everybody knows where they’re going and what they’re doing and how we do it. So if we get that accomplished these first three days, we’ll be happy. Today we got in about 25 percent of the offense.

“I’m never fearful that we’re never going to learn enough. The key is, can they grasp it? Are they going to understand it? But today was a good day. They finished up and did a good job with it so I was happy.”

Since the first few days will be about teaching fundamentals and getting younger players up to speed, the Wildcats won’t don pads until the end of this first week.

“We can keep them somewhat fresh, and so then when we do go into pads, they have some knowledge, they’ve got some stamina, and we get something accomplished,” Klaczak explained. “But you don’t get anything accomplished when you have two tired guys and they go one-on-one and it’s a pillow fight. That’s just my own thing.”

Klaczak will also hold an overnight camp at the high school at the end of this first week as a team-bonding exercise.

“We’re bringing these guys together, especially the young kids, so that everybody understands what the old guys and young guys are doing,” he said. “It always pays off down the road because they have that reserve in them. They know they’ve been together; they’ve built that trust. It’s like the military: the guys you suffer with are the guys you fight with and play with. Everybody knows that. You suffer with him; he’s your buddy. Doesn’t matter if he’s red, green, blue or yellow, he’s your buddy because you’ve all gone through the same thing. That’s what it’s about.

“We’ll learn football and we’ll scrimmage and everything, but I can control it more timewise. We can have more practices that are shorter in length.”

The Wildcats won’t have a game at the end of the first official week of the season, Aug. 23, but that’s by Klaczak’s design.

“It’s a week that I go scout, we rest, get ready to go,” he said. “The kids slow down a bit, and I’m not big on scrimmages, either. I’m not big on that because it’s 8-man football. Everybody is going to know what everyone does. It’s no big deal.”

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Sports Reporter

Gus Morris covers St. Helena and Calistoga sports for the Napa Valley Register. Before joining the Register in 2018, he covered collegiate sports for the student publication at the University of Oregon.