By Matthew Girard

Killeen Daily Herald

FLORENCE – Like many of the numerous high schools around the state that started football practice, District 25-2A's Florence and Salado opened their respective training camps with high hopes on Monday.

For Florence head coach Monte Pierce, who took over the Buffaloes' program in March, the first day of practice couldn't come fast enough.

"It's been a long time coming," said Pierce, who is in his first head coaching position. "I took the job here March 20 and from then until now, I've been preparing for this day. I've been pretty nervous and excited. I didn't sleep a wink last night."

Pierce said he asked his new team to give him and his coaches time during the Buffaloes morning practice.

"I asked for a lot of patience to give us time to get to know the kids and make sure we get them all in the right positions, and that takes time," Pierce said. "The first day is always kind of crazy, but now that we've gotten through that first day, they kind of have an idea of how things are going to run."

Although Florence finished with a 1-9 overall and 1-6 district record last season, junior quarterback Blake Brimer said there is excitement in the air.

"We're all ready to get started," Brimer said. "He's a good guy."

A few miles down the road, it was business as usual for the Salado Eagles and eighth-year coach Jeff Cheatham.

"The first day is always an important day and it's also a big day where the kids have a reality check," said Cheatham, whose Eagles finished 6-1 in district and made the playoffs. "Everybody's excited and then it gets hot. But you've got to set the tone and you've got to be able to put some goals and some things in front of kids and get them set up for the next couple of weeks."

Senior free safety and second-team all-state selection Matt Fritsch said he was ready to get back on the field before the Eagles' evening practice.

"We want to hit the ground running. Seventy percent of the starters are back this year, so hopefully it's not a blow off day," said Fritsch, who is also entering his third year as a starter. "Hopefully, we hit the ground running, running plays and looking sharp."

Despite Pierce and Cheatham being at different stages of their coaching careers, both said the wouldn't want to be anywhere else on Monday.

"The smell of fresh cut grass and seeing kids excited, this is the stuff that gives me chill bumps," Cheatham said. "It makes me enjoy what I do."

Contact Matthew Girard at or (501) 254-7569

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