HUDSON — Over at Fivay High, which opens in the fall, the body language of most football players is reminiscent of a 10-year-old the night before Christmas.
The Falcons are eager for their first day in pads as well as their first game. Every player has a lot to learn before playing under Friday night lights. And some have never even played the sport before.
Take sophomore wide receiver Sean McKillen. A soccer player the past eight years, McKillen has never played full-contact football but so far is impressing coach Chris Taylor with his natural athleticism and is fitting in quite nicely.
"I've always liked football but never played before," McKillen said. "(Taylor) said I impressed him by the way I play. (Taylor) is always positive and never puts anyone down. He is a very good coach."
A positive attitude is a necessity for a program in its infancy. And Taylor's experience at Ridgewood comes in handy with his new squad.
Taylor transformed a Ridgewood program that fell to rock bottom at 0-10 in 2004 to one that nabbed a 9-2 record and the school's second-ever playoff appearance in 2007.
So he knows a little bit about building a team from scratch.
"That previous experience allows us to be successful," Taylor said. " I know the kids are really excited to play football and they have all been very positive."
Teammates are already talking about potential rivalries with area schools. And even though Fivay's doors won't officially open until next month, there seems to be a lot of growth around the football program.
The team has raised nearly $3,000 through fundraisers and sponsors. Taylor had 50 players regularly coming out for spring drills. And the Falcons have an experienced coaching staff: co-defensive coordinators Cliff Lohrey (former Central coach) and Steve Franks (of Anclote, which played in its first varsity season last fall) and offensive coordinator Tim White (a former Land O'Lakes assistant).
With so many affirmative building blocks, the team's near future looks bright.
"Feels good knowing you're going to be the first team ever for a school," junior defensive back Nico Colandrea said. "We're coming together really well as a team. We have players from Hudson, River Ridge and Ridgewood, and we are looking very good as a team."
Colandrea played at Ridgewood last season, and one of the things he quickly noticed is the patience Taylor has with his new team. Forbearance likely will be key for Taylor daily, as success tends to elude new programs right out of the gate. Sunlake, Wiregrass Ranch and Anclote combined to go 1-29 in their first season.
An advantage that Fivay has though is the opportunity to play a mixed JV and varsity schedule in its first season, which could pay dividends more quickly.
"Playing a mixed schedule is going to allow us to be successful at a couple different levels," Taylor said.
There is no telling what the fall holds for the Falcons, but no matter the outcome it looks as if a promising brand of football is coming together off State Road 52.
A brand Taylor will have a watchful eye over for years to come.
All from the ground up.