ELKINS (KFSM) - Before 2018, Elkins got a new coach, joined a new conference, and built a new stadium. Now, for the first time, the Elks gets to spend an entire off season practicing on their turf.
"It’s been really hot on my feet, like, my feet are burning right now," laughs junior Cody Drummond. "You get turf burn, but I love playing here."
Quarterback Kain Johnson confirms.
"Oh yeah. Hot, it’s hotter."
Second year head coach Bryan Hutson, like the turf, is getting his first full off season in with the team.
"The kids are complaining about their feet burning, but they can get over it."
But that’s not all that’s changed. The Elks lost 18 seniors to graduation, and their quarterback transferred. For Hutson, it's an unprecedented level of turnover.
"We only have two returning starters pretty much, and these kids are gonna have to get used to playing on Friday nights instead of Thursdays, but I think they’re up to the challenge."
The junior class has been tasked with filling the holes. But playing together is nothing new for this group, explains Johnson.
"I’ve thrown to the same guys, I don’t know, for ten years."
"It’s a lot different but it’s not different at the same time," says Drummond. "We're out a lot of players, but I’ve been playing with the same guys since third grade, so it’s just like ninth grade to me."
Whether that can translate to success in the 4A, well the Elks just have to wait and see. As they discovered last year, skill isn't their issue in the larger conference, size is.
"We're playing teams that have more than double the number of players on their roster," explains Hutson. "By the end of games, it's just a war of attrition."
"Everybody else has more guys, they can just bring in fresh players," says junior Kelynn Daniel. "We gotta be prepared to play the whole game."
The Elks either led or were tied in the second half of every regular season game last season. But towards the end of the season, players were gassed in the fourth quarter.
"The star players, they gotta play the whole game," adds Drummond. "So we really need to get good conditioning."
"In hurt us in the playoffs last year, when we played a team that had 85 teams dressed out and played 35," says Hutson. "Last year we really sped it up a lot because our offense was explosive, this year we may have to slow it down a bit to give our kids a rest."
The first chance to see the new-look Elks: September 6th, at home against Greenland.